The decade-old lawsuit claimed that Facebook tracked users’ internet activity even when they had signed out of their accounts.
Facebook will pay $90 million to settle a privacy lawsuit that was filed nearly a decade ago.
According to The Hill, the preliminary settlement was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
While the agreement is still subject to court approval, it ends a longstanding case that centered on Facebook’s alleged use of “cookies” to track consumer behavior even when they were not logged into their accounts.
As part of the proposed settlement, Facebook and its parent company, Meta, will isolate and delete all related data.
Meta spokesperson Drew Pusateri told CNN Business that Facebook simply wanted to put the lawsuit behind it.
“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,” Pusateri said.
Although Facebook will pay consumers an estimated $90 million, the company has denied all wrongdoing.
CNN notes that the lawsuit, first filed in 2012, centers on a 2010 feature update called “Open Graph.”
Open Graph, says CNN, was designed to give users a better look at their activity and interests across the internet. As part of the Open Graph update, Facebook released a “Like” plug-in for websites, allowing users to highlight particular articles and interests.
However, Facebook’s “Like” plug-in also enabled the company to gather more consumer data, even if they did not interact with the “Like” button or were logged out of Facebook.
By using tracking cookies, Facebook could ascertain what websites users visit, what products they purchase, and which communications they have with a platform or server.
Shortly after the feature was released, Facebook responded to privacy concerns by saying they would not collect information on consumers who had logged out of Facebook. However, researchers found that Facebook continued to just that, albeit in a more restricted fashion.
When the class action privacy lawsuit was filed, participants accused Facebook of breach of contract.
The lawsuit dragged on for years—it was dismissed in 2017, then revived by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020.
After the 9th Circuit reinstated the class action, Facebook asked the Supreme Court to intervene. When the justices refused, the company entered negotiations with the class.
Stephen Grygiel, an attorney for the plaintiffs, has said the $90 million victory should send a strong signal to other technology companies.
“It’s truly a wake-up call for internet and advertising companies who collect user data and use advanced browser tracking,” Grygiel said.