Meta to Pay $90 Million to Settle Facebook Privacy Lawsuit Over Tracking

Meta to Pay $90 Million to Settle Facebook Privacy Lawsuit Over Tracking
A pedestrian walks in front of the new 'Meta' logo in front of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Oct. 28, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has agreed to a $90 million settlement over a decade-old lawsuit which accused the social media platform of tracking users’ internet activity through browser plug-ins, even after they logged out of their accounts.

A judge must now approve the settlement between Meta and the plaintiffs which was filed on Monday night with the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the social media company must also delete all data collected without users’ knowledge. Meta must also pay $90 million to users who filed a claim.

The lawsuit, filed in 2012, stems from a 2010 update by Facebook called "Open Graph," and alleges that it used plug-ins to store cookies that tracked when users were on other websites which featured Facebook’s “Like” button.

The plug-in allowed Facebook to use cookies to collect information about what sites users visited, and what they purchased or viewed, on sites which had the “Like” button plug-in, according to court documents.

That information was allegedly then compiled into profiles and sold on to advertisers. 
Facebook in September 2011 initially defended its practice of collecting data from the plug-ins when users were no longer logged into the platform, saying it helped to prevent improper logins, before later clarifying its policies and changing how its cookies gathered data .

In 2017, a judge granted Facebook’s motion to dismiss the case, and in 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit partially reversed the decision after plaintiffs appealed that ruling. The federal appeals court said plaintiffs could try to prove that Facebook violated users’ privacy through its practices.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Facebook’s request to hear the case last year.

"It's truly a wake-up call for internet and advertising companies who collect user data and use advanced browser tracking," Stephen Grygiel, a leading attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement shortly after Meta agreed to pay $90 million to settle the class action lawsuit.

According to the settlement, all plaintiffs who, between April 22, 2010 and Sept. 26, 2011, were Facebook users in the United States that visited non-Facebook websites that displayed the “Like” button, may request up to $5,000 each.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs intend to seek legal fees of up to $26.1 million, or 29 percent, from the proposed settlement fund.

“We are grateful to the Ninth Circuit for its watershed ruling, and to Facebook for negotiating this resolution in good faith,” David Straite, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said in a statement. “This settlement not only repairs harm done to Facebook users but sets a precedent for the future disposition of such matters.”

A spokesperson for Meta told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement, "Reaching a settlement in this case, which is more than a decade old, is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders and we’re glad to move past this issue."