Facebook sued by Washington, D. C. over data breach allegations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The attorney-general, Washington, D. C., said on Wednesday the U.S. capital, had sued Facebook Inc. for allegedly misleading users about how it guaranteed their personal data, in the last consequences of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

FILE PHOTO – A 3D printed Facebook-logo is shown in front of the listed cyber-code in this image is 22 March 2016. REUTERS/dado Ruvic/Image/File Photo

The world’s largest social media company global scrutiny since disclosing earlier this year that a third personality quiz spread over Facebook gathered profile information on 87 million worldwide users and sold the data to the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Washington, D. C. Attorney-General Karl Racine said Facebook users tricked, because it was known about the incident of two years before the unveiling. The company had told users the news of third-party apps, a few checks, Racine said.

Facebook said in a statement: “We are reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with the attorneys general in DC and elsewhere.”

Facebook could be levied a civil penalty of $ 5,000 per violation of the region’s consumer protection legislation, or may be in the neighborhood of $1.7 billion, as sanctioned for each consumer affected. The lawsuit claims the quiz software the data on 340,000 D. C. residents, though just 852 users had been directly involved with it.

Shares in the company fell by 4.7 percent in the afternoon trade on Wednesday.

The Privacy settings on Facebook to determine friends on the network could see and what data can be queried by applications were also cheating, Racine said.

“Facebook’s lax oversight and confusing privacy settings, the information of millions of consumers in danger,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “In our lawsuit, we are looking to hold Facebook responsible for endangering and exposing the information” of its customers.

Racine said Facebook had tried to settle the case before he filed the lawsuit, as is typical during an investigation of the large companies.

He described Facebook cooperation as “reasonable”, but said that a lawsuit was necessary “for the speed of change” at the company.

At least six U.S. states have ongoing investigations into Facebook’s privacy policy, according to the officials.

In March, a bipartisan coalition of 37 state attorneys wrote to the company, demanding to know more about the Cambridge Analytica data and any links to the US President, Donald Trump presidential campaign.

Also in March, the Federal Trade Commission took the unusual step to announce that it had opened an investigation into whether the company had violated the 2011 consent decree, citing reports in the media that raise what it called “significant concerns about the privacy policy of Facebook.”

If the FTC finds Facebook violated the decision and conditions, has the power to fine of thousands of dollars per day per violation, which can amount to billions of dollars.

Attorneys general of both major AMERICAN political parties have tightened their enforcement of the privacy legislation in the past few years, said James Tierney, a professor at Harvard Law School and Maine’s former attorney general.

Uber Technologies Inc. [UBER.UL] in September agreed to pay $148 million as part of a settlement with the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D. C. to a data breach, which exposed personal data of 57 million Uber-accounts.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert in Washington, D. C. and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by David Shepardson and Jan Wolfe in Washington, D. C.; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Rosalba O’brien

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