Published: Thu, December 20, 2018
Tech | By Tabitha Holland

DC attorney general sues Facebook over data privacy

DC attorney general sues Facebook over data privacy

The lawsuit by the District of Columbia attorney general is likely the first by an official United States body that could impose consequences on the leading social network for the data misuse.

The New York Times reported that some 150 companies - including powerful partners like Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix and Spotify - could access detailed information about Facebook users, including data about their friends.

The action appears to be the first from a US prosecutor since revelations about were first reported in March.

Steve Satterfield, Facebook's director of privacy and public policy, told the Times none of the partnerships violated users' privacy, or a 2011 agreement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to require explicit permission from members before sharing their data.

It also alleges that Facebook was aware in 2014 that the developer wanted to download the information about users' friends but "failed to monitor or audit the app".

The US capital is suing the website founded by Mark Zuckerberg after Cambridge University's Aleksandr Kogan and his company, Global Science Research (GSR), launched an app called "thisisyourdigitallife" and sold personal information of users to a political consulting firm.

The information of more than 340,000 District of Columbia residents was exposed but only 860 downloaded the quiz, Racine said.

"Furthermore, after discovering the improper sale of consumer data by Kogan to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook failed to take reasonable steps to protect its consumers' privacy by ensuring that the data was accounted for and deleted", the complaint states.

A "whistleblower" at the consultancy said it used Facebook data to develop profiles of users who were targeted with personalized messages that could have played on their fears.

After the revelations about Cambridge Analytica, congressional hearings were held and Facebook changed what sort of data it lets outside developers access.

Facebook has reportedly already produced "reams of documents" in response to the attorney general's investigation, officials said.

Ben Wiseman, the director at the Office of Consumer Protection at the DC AG's office, said that the lawsuit is seeking restitution and damages, including "civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation".

Revelations about Facebook's response to manipulation of the social network before and after the 2016 USA presidential election, and shifting accounts about breaches of users' privacy, have battered the company's reputation and fueled frustration on Capitol Hill.

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