Meta's $37.5 Million Location Privacy Settlement Advances

A judge has granted preliminary approval to Meta Platforms' proposed $37.5 million settlement of a lawsuit alleging that the company violated a prior privacy policy by collecting users' IP addresses, which reveal general information about people's locations.

If granted final approval by U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California, the settlement will allow some people who used Facebook between January 30, 2015 and April 18, 2018 to submit monetary claims.

Specifically, the deal allows claims by Facebook users during that time who turned off location services on Android or Apple mobile devices, but whose location was inferred based on their IP addresses.

Counsel estimated that around 70 million people would be eligible to submit claims.

The amount of money, if any, that Facebook users could receive depends on how many people file claims.

If one million people file claims and the settlement fund totals $25 million after costs and fees, each user would each receive $25, according to a proposed notice for class members.

If the judge determines that distributing money to individual users isn't “economically or administratively feasible,” the settlement funds would be distributed to schools and advocacy organizations, including the ACLU, National Consumer Law Center, Center for Democracy & Technology.

Donato rejected an earlier settlement proposal that didn't include potential distributions to outside organizations, in part because a settlement fund of $37.5 million might not be enough to reasonably compensate 70 million users.

The legal proceedings date to 2018, when Facebook users including Brendan Lundy and Myriah Watkins alleged that the company collected their IP addresses, which provided estimated locations, then deployed “enhanced tracking methodologies” to more precisely pinpoint geolocation.

Lundy and Watkins raised several claims, including that the company allegedly violated a privacy policy in effect between 2015 and April of 2018. That policy said Facebook wouldn't collect location data without users' consent.

In April of 2018, Facebook revised its policy to disclose that it collects IP addresses, which can offer broad information about users' locations.

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