The District of Columbia’s attorney general is taking legal action against Facebook, accusing the company of misleading users and failing to protect their data.
In a court document filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the attorney general points to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political research firm misappropriated tens of millions of users’ data, as well as its special data-sharing agreements with certain “partner companies,” as examples of how the company allegedly violated the district’s Consume Protection Procedures Act.
The legal action comes after a horrendous year for Facebook, which is reeling from multiple scandals — from privacy issues to its role in the spread of hate speech amid genocide in Myanmar.
The case also comes immediately after a bombshell investigation from The New York Times into how Facebook gave certain select partners access to users’ data, including private messages, even when users tried to lock down their privacy settings.
Facebook’s stock was down around 5% on Wednesday.
DC alleges that Facebook failed to make timely disclosures about the Cambridge Analytica breach, and “instead profited from [app developer Aleksandr] Kogan’s and Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of this stolen data by selling millions of dollars of advertising space to Cambridge Analytica and presidential candidate campaigns during the 2016 election.”
Additionally, Facebook’s statements about third-party applications’ access to users’ data were “misleading and deceptive,” DC alleges.
It added: “In sum, Facebook’s representations regarding consumer privacy in connection with applications were misleading and deceptive. Moreover, Facebook’s lack of adequate disclosures and multi-tiered privacy options added to consumer confusion regarding how consumer information was shared with applications.”
In prepared remarks shared with journalists, DC Attorney Feneral Karl Racine said: “In our lawsuit, we are seeking to hold Facebook accountable for jeopardizing and exposing the personal information of tens of millions of its users. We are also seeking to require Facebook to develop new protocols that will safeguard users’ data to ensure this never happens again. Lastly, we are also seeking restitution for the consumers who have been hurt as well as appropriate fines and penalties.”
Reached for comment, Facebook spokesperson Monique Hall provided the following statement: “We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere.”