Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx today announced that her office has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) and SCL Group Limited and Cambridge Analytica LLC (“Cambridge Analytica”) over Cambridge Analytica’s improper harvesting of Facebook user data and Facebook’s failure to adequately protect that data. This resulted in the exploitation of personal data of 50 million Facebook users with the express purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election.
State’s Attorney Foxx, on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois, filed the complaint in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The complaint raises claims under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
“Cambridge Analytic deliberately misled Facebook users so it could build psychological profiles of the user and their friends, and Facebook did not stop it,” said State’s Attorney Foxx. “This blatant deception violated Illinois law and more importantly violated the privacy of Illinois residents. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook must be held accountable for their actions.”
The suit alleges Cambridge Analytica used fraudulent and deceptive practices to gain information about 50 million Facebook users by mining – without users’ knowledge – information about every Facebook “friend” of people who took an online “personality quiz.” This improperly obtained data was used to create “psychographic profiles” on millions of American voters, with the purpose of influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The suit further alleges that Facebook engaged in deceptive practices by maintaining formal polices and representing to the public that strict limitations and protocols on data gathering were in place, while knowingly allowing app developers, including Cambridge Analytica, to accumulate and mine data vastly in excess of those policies.
Upon learning of Cambridge Analytica’s actions, Facebook failed to take adequate corrective action or disclose the violation of its privacy policies to consumers. Its response was limited to a single private request to Cambridge Analytica to delete the data. Facebook took no further action, nor did they notify the “friends” whose data was accessed, until the public revelation of the breach in the media, at which point it finally and for the first time suspended Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook account.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and fines under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
The People are seeking representation by the outside law firm Edelson PC in this litigation. Edelson would work on a contingency basis and its fees will be paid from any recovery generated by this lawsuit.
A copy of the complaint is available here.