Another Facebook data harvesting scandal: Facebook faces new UK class action for failure to protect personal data of about one million users
It seems like it was just yesterday when Facebook admitted to the inadvertent exposure of up to 87 million users’ information to the political analysis firm Cambridge Analytica in 2018. A year later, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook $5 billion for losing control of user data and privacy breaches.
At the time, most analysts think the fine is a slap on the wrist considering Facebook made $22 billion last year. “The magnitude of the $5 billion penalty and sweeping conduct relief is unprecedented in the history of the FTC,” said Chairman Joseph Simons in a statement. “The relief is designed not only to punish future violations but, more importantly, to change Facebook’s entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations.”
Fast forward about two years later, Facebook is involved in another data harvesting scandal. According to a report from Reuters, Facebook is facing a second London High Court class action over allegations it failed to protect the personal details of about one million people in England and Wales. The class action is the latest lawsuit to spring from a scandal over data harvesting.
Citing journalist and writer Peter Jukes, Reuters said Jukes filed a lawsuit for unspecified but “substantial” damages three years after the social media giant was fined in Britain over how third-party app “This Is Your Digital Life” gathered Facebook users’ data without consent between 2013 and 2015.
The class action was brought on behalf of affected Facebook users who fell victim to Facebook’s failure to protect their personal data between November 2013 and May 2015. During the period, Facebook allowed a third-party app called “This is Your Digital Life” to access not only the personal information of users who downloaded the app, but also the personal information of their Facebook friends.
According to the information on the website set up to represent the affected victims, Facebook carried out the action entirely without their knowledge or consent and opened up that information to abuse by third parties such as Cambridge Analytica. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) described it as “a very serious data incident.”
The lawsuit is the second to allege Facebook allowed third-party apps to harvest the data of friends without their permission or knowledge. Litigation firm Milberg London, which is advising on a similar claim filed last October, said it was surprised to hear about the rival lawsuit.
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in 2018 fined Facebook 500,000 pounds ($687,000) for processing the personal data of users unfairly by allowing app developers access to their information and that of their friends without sufficiently clear and informed consent between 2007 and 2014.