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Facebook sued by DC attorney general over alleged privacy violations

The Cambridge Analytica scandal raised concerns about whether Facebook is doing enough to protect the data of its nearly 2.3 billion users.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
James Martin/CNET

Facebook is being sued by the DC attorney general over allegations it failed to safeguard the personal data of its users.

The company's "lax oversight and misleading privacy settings" allowed UK political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to gain access to the personal information of Facebook users without their permission, according to the attorney general's office. 

"Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used," DC Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement. "Today's lawsuit is about making Facebook live up to its promise to protect its users' privacy."

In March, revelations surfaced that Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, had improperly gained access to the data of up to 87 million Facebook users. The consultancy obtained the data from a personality quiz app called "thisisyourdigitallife," which was billed as "a research app used by psychologists."

The DC lawsuit alleges that Facebook failed to properly monitor data-gathering by third-party apps and that its privacy settings aren't easy for people to use. The lawsuit accuses Facebook of violating DC's consumer protection law. 

Facebook is "reviewing the complaint," a company spokesperson said in a statement, and looks "forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere."

The lawsuit comes as Facebook is grappling with concerns about whether it's done enough to protect the privacy and security of the data its users share on the social network. Meanwhile, lawmakers and regulators have been under pressure to take action against the tech giant. 

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Facebook gave greater access to user data than was previously disclosed, allowing Netflix and Spotify to read Facebook users' private messages. Last week, Facebook said a bug may have exposed to outside developers the private photos of up to 6.8 million of its users. 

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