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Facebook, Cambridge Fallout Spreads in Illinois With Lawsuit

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 26, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cook County, Illinois, which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, will have its revenge.

The Democratic stronghold has sued Facebook in the ballooning analytics scandal, in which the social media giant provided user information to a Trump-affiliated political consulting firm. It is apparently the first public entity to join the cascade of lawsuits against the company since the "breach of trust," as Mark Zuckerberg described it.

So why is Cook County -- population 5 million -- suing Facebook about the 50-million-user data scandal? The short answer is: it is against the law.

Ill-Gotten Data

The county alleges Facebook and Cambridge Analytica violated the state's Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. The lawsuit claims that the defendants used the ill-gotten data to influence local voters.

Following at least five other lawsuits, the Cook County complaint came after newspaper reports about how Cambridge Analytica gained access to private information about Facebook users. The firm said it uses such information to analyze voters and target them with messages to influence their behavior.

Zuckerberg has apologized to users for not protecting their data, but his company said Cambridge did not steal the user information. According to reports, an app-maker scraped the data from Facebook and provided it to Cambridge.

Cook County, the second largest by population in the United States, is suing on behalf of all residents of Illinois. Trump took the state in the presidential election.

Data Fallout

In the meantime, Facebook has much bigger problems coming from the data fallout. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the scandal on behalf of American consumers.

It is not the first time Facebook has promised not to share user data without consent. The company entered a consent decree with the FTC in 2011, and violations could result in huge fines or worse.

The mere announcement of the government probe pushed Facebook's market loss to $90 billion. That's almost 20 percent of its value -- in a week.

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