Facebook sued over Cambridge Analytica

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Facebook sued by top US prosecutor over Cambridge Analytica |  "Facebook has not been honest with Congress or the public about how it treats its users’ data" claims New Jersey Rep.

Washington DC's top prosecutor is suing Facebook in the first significant US move to punish the firm for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The suit was filed by Karl Racine, District of Columbia's Attorney General, said the Washington Post. It accused Facebook of allowing the wholesale scraping of personal data on tens of millions of users. The action adds to a number of regulatory investigations, following a year of privacy and security missteps. A Facebook spokesperson told the BBC: "We're reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere."

Facebook sued .... what else?

In addition to this lawsuit, Facebook is being probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. In the UK, the company was fined £500,000 over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the maximum fine the British data regulator could impose. Bigger trouble may arise from the Irish data protection regulator, which is investigating Facebook for multiple admissions of security flaws, in what is being seen as the first major test of Europe’s new privacy rules as dictated by the General Data Protection Regulation. According to the Post, the DC attorney general’s action could be amended to include more recent data security admissions.

More headaches for Facebook

The D.C. case threatens to develop into an even worse headache for Facebook. Racine told reporters that his office has "had discussions with a number of other states that are similarly interested in protecting the data and personal information of their consumers," though he cautioned there is no formal agreement for them to proceed jointly. The attorney general’s aides said they could add additional charges to their lawsuit as other details about Facebook’s privacy lapses become public.

In the months since the Cambridge Analytica scandal began, Facebook has fielded considerable criticism for a series of privacy missteps. Last week, Facebook admitted that as many as 6.8 million users' photos may have been improperly accessed by third-party apps. In Decemeber 2018, new details emerged about Facebook’s extensive data-sharing arrangements with corporate partners including Amazon and Spotify. The report from The New York Times quickly triggered another round of calls from Capitol Hill for the tech giant to be penalized.

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the incoming Democratic chairman of the tech-focused House Energy and Commerce Committee, commented:

It appears that Facebook has not been honest with Congress or the public about how it treats its users’ data. Based on these revelations, I’m concerned that Facebook may have provided the Committee with inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading responses to our questions, and we’ll be following-up.

Sources and credits: BBC News, The Washington Post