Facebook is being sued in Washington for allegedly misleading users about the way it handled and safeguarded personal data over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The company has been under scrutiny since it disclosed that a third-party app accessed the personal information of 87 million people before selling it to Cambridge Analytica, the British political consulting firm, which also conducted digital operations for President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The lawsuit against the world’s largest social media company claims that Facebook knew about the data collection and sale for two years before users were notified. Meanwhile, the company indicated that it vetted third-party apps, but did little by way of follow up checks, according to Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine.
“We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere,” Facebook said in a statement.
The lawsuit could lead to a $5,000 civil penalty levied against Facebook for each violation of Washington’s consumer protection law, which could stack up to a figure close to $1.7 billion if the company had to pay out for every customer impacted.
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The Washington lawsuit alleges that the third-party-app that collected the data — a personality quiz — had picked up data on 340,000 residents of the district. Just 852 of those users directly engaged with the app, however.
In addition to the data breach, Cambridge Analytic had previously come under scrutiny for its work for Mr Trump’s campaign. While working for the campaign in 2016, the company also provided services for a pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1 Again, funded by Robert Mercer.