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Facebook settles Cambridge Analytica class action for undisclosed amount

Zuckerberg and Sandberg won't have to testify – worth much more than cash for Meta

Meta's Platforms has reached an agreement to settle the consumer lawsuits brought as a result of Cambridge Analytica's unauthorized harvesting of user data – an outcome that means Facebook execs won't be required to testify in court.

A filing [PDF] dated August 26 requested that judge Vince Chhabria put the class action on hold for sixty days while parties finalize a written settlement. The amount of the settlement on the four-year-old lawsuit remains undisclosed.

The lawsuit, brought by a group of users, alleges that UK-based Cambridge Analytica created a Facebook app called "This Is Your Digital Life" that was downloaded 300,000 times and harvested users' data. The app also accessed data describing users' Facebook Friends, potentially accessing personal information of 80 million-plus users.

All that data is alleged to have been used during the USA's 2016 Presidential election, campaigners for Brexit, and by Russian misinformation operatives.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in to testify before US Congress to explain how his company had enabled data harvesting and why it had not policed it properly.

Zuck's 2018 appearance in Congress was rather odd – the CEO answered several questions about the business he founded with bland comments along the lines of "I do not recall."

The fallout for Facebook from the revelations includes the loss of two previous privacy cases, a $5 billion penalty levied by the US Federal Trade Commission, and a $630,000 fine levied by UK authorities.

By settling the lawsuit, Zuckerberg and soon-to-be-former COO Sheryl Sandberg avoid having to appear at their September 20 scheduled depositions.

"It is a measure of how desperate Zuckerberg is to avoid answering questions about Facebook's cover-up of the Cambridge Analytica data breach that Facebook has settled this case just days away from him being cross-examined under oath for six hours," stated Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who investigated and reported on Facebook's entanglement with Cambridge Analytica.

Cadwalladr argued the settlement was proof Facebook was "prepared to pay almost any sum of money" to spare its executives from taking the stand – and likely embarrassing themselves and further damaging whatever smidgen of positive reputation Meta/Facebook possesses after whistleblower Frances Haugen dished on how it blithely ignores the harm it does to users. Not to mention various other scandals that seem always to produce an apology and promise to do better … until the next scandal reveals fresh misdeeds.

The Register has reached out to Meta for comment and will report back if there is a substantial reply. ®

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