On December 19, the attorney general of Washington, DC, filed a lawsuit in DC court against Facebook. The complaint alleges that Facebook’s poor oversight and misleading privacy policies enabled Cambridge Analytica to gain access to the data of hundreds of thousands of DC residents, in violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, D.C. Code §§ 28-3901, et seq., and asks the court to enjoin the social media company from continuing to violate the CPPA as well as for civil damages.
This is reportedly the first legal action initiated by a government official against Facebook as a result of that particular incident. Although the lawsuit is a welcome development for those concerned with privacy issues, the fact that it came from local D.C. officials rather than the federal government stokes fears that the Federal Trade Commission—which enforces federal consumer protection laws—is increasingly overpowered by the country’s technology giants. As of December 19, spokespeople at the FTC again declined to comment to Washington Post reporters on their progress investigating Facebook.
The ongoing federal government shutdown adds a further complication to the mix, at least as far as the FTC’s involvement in the investigation. According to an article in the Washington Post, the FTC will not be able to continue its investigation as long as the shutdown continues.
‘It’s about time’: Facebook faces first lawsuit from U.S. regulators after Cambridge Analytica scandal, The Washington Post, December 19, 2018
The shutdown is about to force the FTC to suspend its Facebook investigation, former officials say, The Washington Post, December 28, 2018
AG Racine Sues Facebook for Failing to Protect Millions of Users’ Data, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (press release), December 19, 2018
Complaint in District of Columbia v. Facebook, Inc.
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