BALTIMORE, MD– On Friday, May 18, 2018, Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, together with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr and Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, filed a national class action lawsuit against Facebook, Inc., Cambridge Analytica LLC, and SCL Group, Ltd. for their combined efforts to unlawfully distribute the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users. That information contained intimate photographs, sensitive personal information (including emails, birthdays, and phone numbers) and extensive lists of friends and contacts. The theft of this user information began as early as 2014 – and continued well into 2016. The information was used for advertising purposes, enriching Facebook and directly benefitting Cambridge Analytica, SCL and their clients.
This misappropriation of user data was not without consequence. Various news outlets and media reports have identified this unlawful taking and misuse of Facebook user data as one of the factors responsible for the election of the current President of the United States.
The events that give rise to the class action lawsuit filed today arose in 2014 when Cambridge Analytica hired a Cambridge University academic, Aleksandr Kogan, to build a survey application called “thisisyourdigitallife.” In the fine print of the terms and conditions of the application, users were told that their data was only going to be used for academic research purposes. Facebook’s own policies barred third party developers from using data acquired through their applications to be used for the purposes of advertising.
Unfortunately, Cambridge Analytica had other ideas. It not only harvested the Facebook data of the roughly 270,000 Facebook users who had downloaded the “thisisyourdigitallife” application (on the understanding that their data would only be used for research purposes), it also harvested the data of their Facebook friends and contacts – representing up to 87 million additional Facebook users. Once it had misappropriated the personal information of almost half of all American Facebook users, it then used that data to place targeted political advertisements in their personal Facebook feeds. And while this theft of data proceeded apace, Facebook undertook no audits and conducted no oversight of Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL.
As a result, up to 87 million Americans had their most personal data taken and used for purposes to which they never consented and of which they never approved. Facebook’s negligence and Cambridge Analytica’s willful disregard of the terms of the authorization they had been given by 270,000 Facebook users (to say nothing of the up to 87 million Facebook users who never downloaded Cambridge Analytica’s thisisyourdigitallife application) are at the heart of the class action lawsuit filed today.
The whistleblower Christopher Wylie, formerly of Cambridge Analytica, noted in written Congressional testimony that “Facebook was first notified of C[ambridge] A[nalytica]’s harvesting scheme in 2015. It did not warn users then, and it only took action [after the truth became publicly known.” He went on to warn, “What I bore witness to at Cambridge Analytica should alarm everyone. Cambridge Analytica is the canary in the coal mine to a new Cold War emerging online.”
As Will Zerhouni, partner of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy noted, “It is unconscionable that Facebook would facilitate and Cambridge Analytica would execute a scheme to harvest the most sensitive and intimate data of up to 87 million Americans without their knowledge, approval or consent. This unlawful scheme to deny up to 87 million Americans the privacy that they bargained for was not without consequence. An American presidential election was directly affected by these underhanded machinations – and the history of the world was literally changed as a result.”
Zerhouni added, “We will seek to vindicate the privacy rights of those Americans who trusted Facebook with their data and never sought to be used as pawns in a larger geopolitical game.”
April Falcon Doss, chair of cybersecurity and privacy at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, added that the impact of these privacy violations falls equally across political party lines. “It doesn’t matter what your politics are – every user of Facebook should be appalled by what they’ve done. Millions of Americans trust Facebook as a platform to share the most personal information about their lives: photos of their children, the status of their relationships, their religious affiliations, and their political views. When users entrust their personal information to a large platform provider like Facebook, they should be able to expect – and demand – that the company will live up to its own promises regarding data privacy.”
Doss pointed out that, at the time of these events, Facebook was already subject to oversight by the Federal Trade Commission for past privacy violations. She added, “Facebook may believe it’s too big to be held to account. We believe that when it violates its users’ trust, it’s too big to be let off the hook.”
About Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, P.A.
Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, P.A. is a Baltimore-based law which specializes in complex civil, criminal and civil rights litigation. Our powerhouse legal team has a history of unrelenting dedication to its clients in Baltimore and across the country. Our team of seasoned trial lawyers have extensive experience in a wide variety of cases with success rates that dwarf national averages and are dedicated to providing smart strategies and creative approaches to complex litigation. Our team is driven and strategy-focused— characteristics that have helped us secure more than $700 million in verdicts and settlements, and our attorneys have won some of the largest verdicts in high-profile, high-stakes cases in some of the toughest jurisdictions around the country. Recently, the firm has been recognized as a national leader in data breach and internet privacy litigation and in February 2018, Managing Partner Hassan Murphy was appointed by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to be part of the leadership of the historic Equifax data breach case. Learn more at www.murphyfalcon.com .
*Each case is different. Past success does not guarantee a favorable result in any future case.
Contact: Will Zerhouni
SOURCE Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, originally published on PR Newswire