Photo Credit: South China Morning Post
By Sascha Matuszak
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent five hours answering questions from a revolving cast of senators yesterday. His testimony concerned the Cambridge Analytica data breach, which compromised the personal data of more than 80 million people. Congress is reviewing new regulations governing how tech companies manage personal data, such as the Honest Ads Act, and may even consider anti-trust action. Some senators have pointed to the fact that there is no alternative to Facebook as a sign of a monopoly; however, Facebook and Zuckerberg can influence and guide much of what comes out of these hearings, through lobbying on Capitol Hill, collaborations with politicians interested in crafting “the right regulations,” and clever answers to complex questions.
But the company has less influence over what the courts will say.
As Zuckerberg testified, the first wave of litigation hit the beach. More than a dozen legal teams filed class action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and other entities involved in the most recent data breach. One of them, a joint US-UK class action lawsuit filed in Delaware, where Facebook, Global Science Research Limited, SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica are all incorporated, has been brought under the US Stored Communications Act.
“US lawyers said the legislation provides for a minimum $1000 (£700) penalty for any violation found by a court,” write Owen Bowcott and Alex Hern of The Guardian. “[M]eaning that, if the case goes against Facebook, it could face damages in excess of $70bn.
This is the first suit against Facebook to include British citizens, but it is one of at least a dozen filed across the US following the data breach, including investigations by the Massachusetts attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission. The lawsuits cite not only the Stored Communications Act, but also the 2011 FTC Consent Decree that Facebook signed and allegedly failed to adhere to. Other regulations may also come into play, as the lawsuits work their way through the courts and wrangle out exactly what laws were violated by the Cambridge Analytica data breach. [Read more…]