The Guardian reports that United Kingdom and US lawyers have launched a joint class action against Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and two other companies SCL Group Limited and Global Science Research Limited (GSR). for allegedly misusing the personal data of more than 71 million people.
The lawsuit claims the firms obtained users’ private information from the social media network to develop “political propaganda campaigns” in the UK and the US. Jason McCue, of the London-based McCue and Partners, which specialises in data privacy and human rights law, is leading the UK arm of the claim.
Facebook, it is said, may initially have been misled, but failed to act responsibly to protect the data of 1 million British users and 70.6 million people in America. The data, it is suggested, was first used in the British EU referendum and then in the US during the 2016 presidential election.
All the companies and Kogan have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.The Cambridge University neuroscientist Aleksandr Kogan, a founding director of GSR, is also named. Cambridge Analytica was set up in 2013 as an offshoot of SCL Group, which offered similar services to businesses and political parties.
Lawyer McCue said:
“The defendants effectively abused the human right to privacy of ordinary Facebook users and, if that were not enough, then the fruits of that abuse are alleged to have undermined the democratic process. This case will go some way to ensure that neither of these things can happen in the future.”
The extracted data included names, phone numbers, mail and email addresses, political and religious affiliations, and other interests. It was used, it is said, “to accomplish Cambridge Analytica’s driving principle: to build psychological profiles of voters to affect election results in the UK and the US”
As the scandal blows up, the systematic weakness of Facebook’s access controls in the first half of this decade has prompted concerns that Cambridge Analytica may just be the tip of the iceberg.