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In 2018, Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, settled a long-running class-action lawsuit for $725 million.

As a result of revelations that the social media giant allowed third-party apps such as Cambridge Analytica to access users’ personal information without their consent, a legal dispute arose.

A federal judge in the San Francisco division of the U.S. District Court must approve the proposed settlement, first reported by Reuters last week.

As a reminder, Facebook had previously filed for dismissal of the lawsuit in September 2019, claiming users have no legitimate privacy interest in the information they share with their friends.

The data harvesting scandal, which came to light in March 2018, involved a personality quiz app called ‘thisisyourdigitallife’ that collected data on users’ public profiles, page likes, dates of birth, genders, locations, and messages (in some cases) to build psychographic profiles.

An academic researcher named Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research (GSR) developed the app in 2013 in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy company.

In addition to 300,000 users taking the psychological test, the app collected the personal information of those who installed the app and their Facebook friends without explicit permission, resulting in 87 million profiles being collected.

In 2015, Facebook banned ‘thisisyourdigitallife’ for violating its platform policy and sending legal requests to GSR and Cambridge Analytica to delete the improperly obtained information.

As it turned out later, the unauthorized data had never been purged, and the consulting firm, now defunct, had used the personal data from millions of Facebook accounts to profile and target voters ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

It was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook but, it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us.

Mark Zuckerberg said at the time.

A bombshell expose sparked government scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic, leading the company to settle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in 2019.

A probe initiated by the U.S. government led to Meta being fined $5 billion in the same year. To settle charges that the firm undermined users’ right to control the privacy of their personal information, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated the firm’s privacy practices.

In response to the problematic data leakage, Meta has not admitted any wrongdoing and has taken steps to curtail third-party access to user data.

Off-Facebook Activity allows users to “see a summary of the apps and websites that send us information about your activity, and delete this information from your account if you wish.”

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Author Profile

Gabriella Antal

SMM & Corporate Communications Officer

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Gabriella is the Social Media Manager and Cybersecurity Communications Officer at Heimdal®, where she orchestrates the strategy and content creation for the company's social media channels. Her contributions amplify the brand's voice and foster a strong, engaging online community. Outside work, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her dog.

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