Meta reaches US$37.5 million settlement of Facebook location tracking lawsuit

Agreement requires judge’s approval.

Meta Platforms reached a US$37.5 million (AU$54 million) settlement of a lawsuit accusing the parent of Facebook of violating users’ privacy by tracking their movements through their smartphones without permission.

A preliminary settlement of the proposed class action was filed in San Francisco federal court, and requires a judge’s approval.

It resolved claims that Facebook violated California law and its own privacy policy by gathering data from users who turned off location services on their mobile devices.

The users said that while they did not want to share their locations with Facebook, the company nevertheless inferred where they were from their IP (internet protocol) addresses, and used that information to send them targeted advertising.

The settlement covers people in the United States who used Facebook after January 30, 2015.

Meta denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle. It did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.

In June 2018, Facebook and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told the US Congress that the Menlo Park, California-based company uses location data “to help advertisers reach people in particular areas.”

As an example, it said users who dined at particular restaurants might receive posts from friends who also ate there, or ads from businesses that wanted to provide services nearby.

The lawsuit began in November 2018. Lawyers for the plaintiffs may seek up to 30 percent of Monday’s settlement for legal fees, settlement papers show.

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