The District of Columbia sued Facebook today for sharing users' personal data with consulting firm Cambridge Analytica before the 2016 election. The Washington Post reports that this is "the first major effort" by United States regulators to punish Facebook over its involvement with the British political consulting firm, which was allowed to gain access to personal data of millions of the social network's users without their permission.
But revelations of more privacy lapses continue to crop up, sometimes through breakdowns that Facebook has periodically disclosed, such as a software flaw that improperly exposed the photos of about 7 million users, or other times though media investigations such as a New York Times report documenting the company's agreements to share its audience's information with its partners, including Microsoft and Netflix.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Karl Racine, attorney general for the nation's capital.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced that an audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers revealed that Facebook does not provide user data to third-party applications. "Partnerships are one area of focus and, as we've said, we're winding down the integration partnerships that were built to help people access Facebook", he said.
Reports commissioned by the US Senate and unveiled Monday said that propaganda campaigns conducted by Russian Federation across a gamut of social networks before the US presidential election in 2016 included tactics aimed at discouraging black people from voting.
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"We hope this lawsuit will ensure Facebook takes better care with its data". The Times claimed that Facebook had allowed companies access to users' private messages, a severe breach of trust.
It has some nice touches: "You made a new friend!" the video proclaims, before showing a picture of Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie. It also alleges that Facebook was aware in 2014 that the developer wanted to download the information about users' friends but "failed to monitor or audit the app".
None of those partnerships or features "gave companies access to information without people's permission", he said, adding that the deals did not violate a 2012 privacy settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission. Lawmakers have been threatening for some time to impose new regulations to rein in Facebook, and the news report only seemed to further the case.
Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that heard testimony from Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in September, has previously put forth several potential measures for regulating tech companies.