Meta Settles Facebook Location Tracking Lawsuit

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Meta reaches $37.5 million settlement of a Facebook location tracking lawsuit, after allegations it tracked user movements via people’s smartphones

Meta Platforms has reached a $37.5 million settlement of a lawsuit that alleged Facebook violated users’ privacy by tracking their movements via their smartphones, without permission.

Reuters reported that the preliminary settlement of the proposed class action was filed on Monday in San Francisco federal court, and it still requires a judge’s approval.

Facebook has been engulfed in a number of tracking rows over the past decade, and this particular lawsuit began in November 2018 in the US District Court, Northern District of California.

Tracking settlement

The settlement 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.

Monday’s settlement covers people in the United States who used Facebook after 30 January 2015, Reuters reported.

Meta reportedly denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle and did not respond to requests for comments.

In June 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the US Congress that Facebook uses location data “to help advertisers reach people in particular areas.”

As an example, he 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.

Other settlements

If the judge approves the settlement, this will be the latest lawsuit that Meta has settled.

The social networking giant was sued back in 2015 when Illinois users accused Facebook of violating that state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act in collecting biometric data.

The lawsuit began because of Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature, which allowed users to recognize their Facebook friends from previously uploaded photos.

Facebook had already suspended facial recognition for European users after the practice was deemed illegal, because it stored biometric data without users’ explicit consent.

In January 2020 the social networking giant reached a $550 million settlement in principle. In February 2021 this settlement was increased to $650m.

In June of this year, a district court in California gave preliminary approval to a $90 million class action settlement after users claimed Facebook tracked people’s activities on external websites. This settlement has a final approval hearing set for 27 October.

Facebook has been accused on multiple occasions about location issues over the past decade.

In 2013 Facebook was engulfed in a privacy row after it was revealed it was developing a smartphone app that would constantly track the location of users.

Then in 2016 Facebook said it would begin tracking people without Facebook accounts as part of advertising growth. And to make matters worse, the social network said it will also show adverts to non-Facebook users on other websites.

Then in 2019 Facebook gave its users a new tool to give them the ability to clear their browsing history that is compiled by third party apps and websites, and which is sent to Facebook.