Facebook again fails to block DC attorney general's lawsuit

The lawsuit against the social network will proceed to discovery.

Corinne Reichert Senior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently oversees the CNET breaking news desk for the West Coast. Corinne covers everything from phones, social media and security to movies, politics, 5G and pop culture. In her spare time, she watches soccer games, F1 races and Disney movies.
Expertise News
Corinne Reichert
2 min read

Mark Zuckerberg might have to testify again, this time not in front of Congress, but in court.

James Martin/CNET

Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl Racine has said his court case against Facebook for last year's Cambridge Analytica data breach will go ahead. Facebook's second attempt to block the lawsuit has now failed, Racine tweeted Friday.

The DC attorney general sued Facebook in December, alleging that the company failed to safeguard the personal data of its users. Facebook's "lax oversight and misleading privacy settings" allowed Cambridge Analytica to access the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users, the lawsuit said. The scandal saw CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify to Congress on Facebook's data privacy policies.

"For the second time, the court has denied Facebook's attempt to stop our lawsuit that seeks to hold the company accountable for not protecting the personal data of nearly half of DC residents," Racine tweeted. "We look forward to discovery and continuing our case to protect consumers."

According to the lawsuit, Facebook didn't properly monitor data gathering by third-party apps, and its privacy settings aren't easy for people to use. This is a breach of DC's consumer protection law, the lawsuit alleges.

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

A Facebook spokesperson told CNET that protecting its users' data and privacy is "a top priority."

"We've taken a hard look at the information apps can use when you connect them to Facebook, as well as other data practices," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "We know we have more work to do. However, we do not believe this suit has any merit and will continue to defend ourselves vigorously."

The US Federal Trade Commission also kicked off an investigation of Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal for violating a legal agreement it had with the US government to keep user data private. Facebook has previously estimated that the FTC could fine the company $3 billion to $5 billion

The New York attorney general's office is similarly investigating Facebook over the harvesting of email contacts of about 1.5 million users without their consent. 

"It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers' personal information," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement in April. "Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers' information while at the same time profiting from mining that data."

The social network confirmed in April that it collected the email contacts of its users but said it wasn't deliberate.

Originally published June 28, 5:21 p.m. PT.  
Update, 6:01 p.m.: Adds Facebook comment.

Watch this: Did Facebook lose control of your information?