Privacy Class Action Against Facebook Moves Forward

By Ceylan Pumphrey, Esq. on June 05, 2019

Facebook is a great way for friends and family to share parts of their lives with one another. But, the company also has certain responsibilities that it owes to its users, and it doesn't always live up to consumers' expectations.

From lawsuits involving discrimination in the way it advertises to those alleging that it inflated the number of views on videos, Facebook is no stranger to controversy and lawsuits. But, one of the most concerning claims against Facebook are the allegations that it improperly shared users' data with a political consulting firm. On Friday, a judge signed an order denying Facebook's motion to dismiss, allowing a lawsuit involving these allegations to proceed.

In December, Washington, D.C.'s attorney general sued Facebook for improperly sharing the data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm. The lawsuit accuses Facebook of misleading users because the social media site knew about the breach for two years before disclosing it. Additionally, Facebook is accused of allowing third-party app makers to access the information of its users without the users' consent.

Cambridge Analytica used a personality quiz through Facebook to gather information to predict and influence voter behavior. After the breach was disclosed, it was shut down and both U.S. and European launched regulatory probes into Facebook. The lawsuit in D.C. alleges that although only 852 users had directly used it, the firm's quiz software had data on 340,000 D.C. residents.

Lawyers for Facebook argue that the company didn't mislead users about privacy protections for their personal data. They also argue that news reports about the incident involving Cambridge Analytica was sufficient disclosure to consumers.

This was not the first legal defeat for Facebook involving the Cambridge Analytica scandal. On the same day, a judge in Delaware ordered Facebook to hand over records involving its handling of data privacy to shareholders. The court could award damages and impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation of the D.C.'s consumer protection law. If Facebook is penalized for each affected consumer, the penalties could be close to $1.7 billion.

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