Facebook sued over role in Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook is being sued in London over allegations that it failed to protect user data during the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The social media giant is facing a group legal action that claims to represent one million users in England and Wales.

The ‘Facebook You Owe Us’ suit alleges that Facebook failed to protect user data when thousands of people participated in the “thisisyourdigitallife” app on the site in the years 2013 and 2014.

Facebook became engulfed in the scandal after it was discovered that the data of 87 million people was mined from the app and used for political advertising during elections.

The case is led by Alvin Carpio, who claims Facebook allowed the app to harvest the data of the users’ friends without their permission or knowledge. Mr Carpio counts his own personal data among those who were harvested.

London law firm Milberg is representing Mr Carpio and alleges that Facebook failed to meet its legal obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

It claims that group legal actions like this will pave the way for consumers to gain redress and compensation for the “persistent mass misuse” of personal data by large companies.

Last year, Facebook was fined £500,000 for its role in the scandal by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). At the time, the ICO said the social media giant had “processed the personal information of users unfairly”.

Mr Carpio said that almost nothing had been done to hold Facebook to account three years on from the scandal erupting.

“By failing to protect our personal information from abuse, we believe that Facebook broke the law,” he said.

“Paying less than 0.01pc of your annual revenue in fines – pocket change to Facebook – is clearly a punishment that does not fit the crime.”

The representative claimant said that the company owed people “honestly, responsibility, and redress”.

James Oldnall, managing partner at Milberg London, said that it was “abundantly clear” that Facebook had failed to uphold its obligations under data protection laws.

“The courts are beginning to recognise that personal data has value, and that representative actions are a suitable mechanism to hold companies to account for abusing or misusing that data,” he said.

A spokesman for Facebook said that it had yet to receive any documents in relation to the claim.

“The ICO’s investigation into these issues, which included seizing and interrogating Cambridge Analytica’s servers, found no evidence that any UK or EU users’ data was transferred by Dr Kogan to Cambridge Analytica.” 

Alexander Kogan was the developer behind the thisisyourdigitallife app at the heart of the scandal. However, earlier in the month, the ICO found that there was no evidence that data had been shared with Cambridge Analytica to influence the Brexit campaign.

The case is similar to a separate suit known as Google You Owe Us that dates back to 2017, which alleged the search giant unlawfully collected the personal data of millions of users by bypassing privacy settings on their iPhones.

Google You Owe Us was brought forward by ex-Which director Richard Lloyd. The Google case, also taken by Milberg, is to be heard at the Supreme Court in April.

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