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DC Attorney General Files Bigtime Privacy Suit Against Facebook

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 20, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In an unprecedented lawsuit, Facebook faces potentially billions of dollars in fines for its role in the 2016 presidential election scandal.

The attorney general for the District of Columbia alleges that Facebook "failed to protect the privacy of its users" from manipulation by Cambridge Analytica. The lawsuit says Facebook engaged in "unfair and deceptive practices" by deceiving users about how their data was used.

While most of the controversy surrounding Russian interference has fallen on the president, the complaint pushes the spotlight back towards the social media giant. It is the first lawsuit of its kind, and may lead to more.

User Privacy

DC attorney general Karl Racine filed the complaint in federal court. He said other states have contacted him about filing similar complaints.

"Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used," Racine said in a statement. "Today's lawsuit is about making Facebook live up to its promise to protect its users' privacy."

According to reports, Cambridge Analytica bought user information to harvest data about tens of millions of Facebook users. Cambridge then used the data for Republican candidates to influence voters in the 2016 election.

Racine told reporters that Cambridge purchased wrongfully obtained data, including personal information about 340,000 residents of the District of Columbia. That's about half the people who live there.

"Improper Sale"

The lawsuit alleges that Aleksandr Kogan, who created a personality quiz on Facebook, sold users' information without their knowledge. Facebook discovered the "improper sale," and did not "take reasonable steps" to protect the consumers' privacy.

"Facebook further failed to timely inform the public (including DC residents) that tens of millions of its consumers had their data sold to Cambridge Analytica, even though Facebook knew, or should have known, that such data was acquired in violation of its policies and was being used in connection with political advertising," the complaint says.

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