Facebook · Information operations · Information Warfare

D.C. attorney general sues Facebook over alleged privacy violations from Cambridge Analytica scandal


FILE – In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York’s Times Square. Facebook has announced its third and biggest purge of military-linked accounts in Myanmar, where critics have charged that the social network did too little to block inflammatory material that fueled communal hatred, particularly against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Much of this is a result of Dr. Emma Briant’s submissions to investigative bodies in both the US and the UK, Cambridge Analytica and SCL – how I peered inside the propaganda machine.

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December 19, 2018 at 12:03 PM

The attorney general for the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Facebook for allowing Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, to gain access to the names, “likes” and other personal data about tens of millions of the social site’s users without their permission.

The lawsuit filed by Karl Racine marks the first major effort by regulators in the United States to penalize the tech giant for its entanglement with the firm. It could presage even tougher fines and other punishments still to come for Facebook as additional state and federal investigations continue.

“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.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Its stock fell 3.9 percent Wednesday morning.

Announcing the lawsuit, Racine said Facebook’s entanglement with Cambridge Analytica had exposed nearly half of all District residents’ personal data to privacy and security risks. Citing the region’s consumer-protection law, the attorney general’s contends that Facebook misled users about the security of their data, made it difficult for users to control their privacy settings and failed to inform them promptly after discovering Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed personal information.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to “ensure Facebook puts in place protocols and safeguards to monitor users’ data,” the attorney general’s office said, along with “restitution for consumers, penalties, and costs.”

The lawsuit comes as Facebook continues to face criticism around the world for mismanaging its users’ personal information. Last week, for example, the company admitted that some users’ photos may have been improperly accessed by third-party apps. Then, on Tuesday, new details emergedabout 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.

To that end, a person familiar with the new D.C. lawsuit said it is likely to be amended in the future to include more recent allegations of improper data collection and use. This person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet public, said several states also are pursuing investigations into Facebook.

Facebook’s troubles with Cambridge Analytica came to light in March, after a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, revealed that the political firm sought to create “psychographic” profiles about social-media users and target them with messages that preyed on their hopes and fears. Before it shut down, Cambridge Analytica for a time had been managed by Steve Bannon, who was the company’s vice president and later served as a top advisor to President Trump.

Cambridge Analytica in 2014 used data collected by a quiz app, which gathered information on those who used it as well as their friends, which numbered in the hundreds for many users. That data included names, home towns, religious and educational backgrounds, friend lists and other data, researchers said at the time. In total, the effort allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest insights on more than 87 million users around the world, including 71 million Americans, Facebook previously revealed.

The revelation unleashed unprecedented global scrutiny of Facebook’s privacy practices and a wave of investigations, including the United States, where Facebook now faces the prospect of serious fines

The federal investigation involving the Security and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department has been underway for months, focusing in part on whether Facebook’s representations to investors regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal have been full and accurate. The FTC is also probing whether Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica — and its handling of users’ data — violated a 2011 agreement brokered by the agency that required the tech giant to improve its privacy practices.

Regulators in the United Kingdom announced earlier this year they would penalize Facebook — a $625,000 fine — but the company has contested it in court. Previously, Facebook declined to make its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, available to testify in front of lawmakers from the UK and eight other countries that remain concerned about the Cambridge Analytica controversy.

Tony Romm is a technology policy reporter at The Washington Post. He has spent more than eight years covering the ways that tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google navigate the corridors of government — and the regulations that sometimes result.

Craig Timberg is a national technology reporter for The Washington Post. Since joining The Post in 1998, he has been a reporter, editor and foreign correspondent, and he contributed to The Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the National Security Agency.

Aaron Davis is an investigative reporter who has covered local, state and federal government, as well as the aviation industry and law enforcement. Davis shared in winning the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 2018.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/technology/2018/12/19/dc-attorney-general-sues-facebook-over-alleged-privacy-violations-cambridge-analytica-scandal/