At least two class action lawsuits have been filed against Facebook following recent revelations that the social network allowed a data research firm to access sensitive information about more than 50 million users, including one case brought on behalf of users, and another on behalf of investors in the company.
The Facebook data disclosure was discovered after a whistleblower reported that Cambridge Analytica obtained the data on Facebook users, and then allegedly used the information to craft targeted advertisements on behalf of Donald Trump’s election campaign.
One of the Facebook class action lawsuits was brought by Maryland resident Lauren Price, who filed a complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on March 20, against Facebook, Inc. and Cambridge Analytica.
Price seeks class action status to pursue damages on behalf of herself an the 50 million other Facebook users who had their data disclosed in 2014, before the company changed a policy restricting access to the information. The data was collected by Aleksandr Kogan, a data scientist who developed an app that collected data from Facebook users.
According to Facebook officials, they contacted the company and asked them to delete the data. But there are some indications, including at least one whistleblower who worked with data research firm, that the data was never deleted. Instead, it was allegedly turned over to the Donald Trump presidential election campaign.
“This case involves the absolute disregard with which the Defendants have chosen to treat Plaintiff’s Personal Information,” Price’s lawsuit states. “While this information was supposed to be protected, and used for only expressly disclosed and limited purposes, CA, without authorization, or by exceeding whatever limited authorization it, or its agents, had, improperly collected the Personal Information of nearly 50 million Facebook users. Facebook, for its part, knew this improper data aggregation was occurring and failed to stop it, or actively avoided discovering such knowledge in order to profess supposed ignorance.”
The investor class action lawsuit (PDF) was filed on March 20 by Fan Yuan in the same court. It names Facebook, Inc., Mark E. Zuckerberg, and David M. Wehner as defendants.
Yuan’s complaint indicates that the company’s failure to disclose that third parties had such deep access to personal information gave investors a false and misleading view of the company. The class action investor lawsuit indicates that the revelations about Cambridge Analytica cause the company’s stocks to drop, costing investors billions.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for the incident, and said it is probably the biggest mistake that the company has ever made. Some U.S. senators say they want Zuckerberg to testify before Congress regarding the incident, and Zuckerberg has said he is willing to do so.