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Meta agrees to pay $90 million settlement in decade-old Facebook privacy suit

After losing its most recent appeal and being rebuffed by the US Supreme Court, Facebook's parent company finally intends to pay out.
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Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer on

Facebook parent company Meta has reached a $90 million settlement in a case that's been ongoing since 2012. 

The legal fight was caused by Facebook's use of cookies and a proprietary browser plug-in in 2010 and 2011 to track users after they had completely logged off the social network. Although users had to agree to being tracked while they were logged into Facebook, that tracking was supposed to end upon logout, according to the end-user licensing agreement. It did not. 

Per Variety, the settlement to the privacy-focused suit is now being considered by the US District Court for the Northern District of California, which will need to approve the agreement. 

The case has been simmering for nearly a decade thanks to a series of appeals from both sides, with Facebook having won out in several previous hearings. However, in 2020, the 9th Circuit Court ruled against the social network. This decision, followed by the US Supreme Court declining to hear the case, likely prompted its decision to finally settle the matter. 

As Variety notes, this settlement, if approved, would be one of the 10 largest penalties ever paid in the US for violating user privacy. 

Under the terms of Meta's proposed settlement, Facebook will sequester and delete all of the data collected during this period. 

Facebook's opponent in the case, the law firm of DiCello Levitt Gutzler, noted that the $90 million represents "at least 100% of any unjust profits earned on the data at issue."

This is Facebook's second entry on the top 10 list of privacy settlements in US history. Its other entry was the staggering $650 million in total penalties the site agreed to pay to settle a lawsuit surrounding its previous use of a facial recognition system as part of its photo tagging feature. That privacy violation settlement currently remains the most costly of its kind in US history. 

A Meta spokesperson told Variety, "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."

Just as this case may finally be ending, Meta finds itself with another privacy suit joining the long list of those against it. This time, the company is in hot water with the Texas Attorney General claiming it violated user privacy through its use of biometric data. Facebook previously told ZDNet that the latest suit's "claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."

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