Meta will pay $90 million to settle a decade-old privacy lawsuit

Facebook's tracking cookies followed users even after they signed out.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Meta is once again settling a privacy complaint, but this one reaches back — way back. As Variety reports, the company has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a 2012 class action lawsuit accusing the company of violating users' privacy. Facebook allegedly overstepped its bounds in 2010 and 2011 by using tracking cookies that monitored browsing after users signed out, despite promises to the contrary.

The settlement is still pending approval in a Northern District of California court. Attorneys at DiCello Levitt Gutzler were confident, however, following a 2020 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that turned the case in their favor. Facebook needed consent for the data collection, the appeals court said, and unlawful use of personal data created "economic harm" even when the data's value remained intact. Meta had succeeded three times in court before the 2020 opinion. The Supreme Court declined to hear Meta's appeal of the Ninth Circuit ruling.

A Meta spokesperson emphasized the age of the case in a statement to Variety, saying it was in the company's "best interest" to settle and "move past this issue." This is the seventh largest privacy- or breach-related in the US, according to the law firm, with another Facebook case (a $650 million payout over facial recognition) topping the chart.

The settlement won't materially affect your privacy when the issues are long in the past. You also shouldn't expect a significant reward if you can make a claim — class actions like this rarely lead to windfalls for affected users, especially when Facebook has so many members. With that said, the outcome is a reminder that Facebook's privacy issues have existed for a long time, and continue to this day.