District of Columbia Defends Its Facebook Privacy Breach Lawsuit

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. must be held accountable for misleading District of Columbia users about its information-sharing practices, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in papers opposing the social network’s request to have a consumer-protection lawsuit thrown out.

“This court should allow the D.C. Attorney General’s efforts to protect D.C. consumers from a company that was recently labeled a ‘digital gangster’ in another government inquiry to proceed,” Racine in the late Friday filing with District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Fern Saddler.

The attorney general’s December lawsuit was sparked by revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm hired by President Donald Trump’s campaign, had gained access to the personal information of an estimated 70 million Americans by leveraging Facebook users’ accounts without their knowledge. Racine sued on behalf of more than 340,000 district residents he claims were harmed by Facebook’s failure to protect their data.

The Menlo Park, California-based company asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit last month. While acknowledging the resultant storm of criticism, Facebook said the court lacked jurisdiction and that the offending activity didn’t have to be disclosed because it didn’t violate D.C. law.

"The Cambridge Analytica events did not trigger the statute’s notification provisions," in part because there was no data breach, but also because an intermediary had sold the data to Cambridge Analytica in violation of Facebook’s policies, the company said.

Racine is demanding the social network turn over information on its integration and data-sharing partnership details; names of third-party applications that violated Facebook data policies; and disclose the actions it took to police those policies. The company has countered with a request that Saddler put those inquiries on hold until she decides whether the suit should be thrown out or go ahead.

Saddler is scheduled to hear more arguments next week.

The case is District of Columbia v. Facebook Inc., 2018 CA 008715 B, District of Columbia Superior Court, Civil Division (Washington).

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