Lawsuits accompany backlash to Facebook, Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal

By Amanda Thomas | Apr 22, 2018

As lawsuits pile up against Facebook and a firm accused of collecting private information from millions of people through a social media app, the president of a legal association wants lawmakers to hold accountable data holders who break privacy laws.

The entrance to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.   Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

SAN FRANCISCO — As lawsuits pile up against Facebook and a firm accused of collecting private information from millions of people through a social media app, the president of a legal association wants lawmakers to hold accountable data holders who break privacy laws. 

Some lawmakers have raised the possibility of regulating social media networks. U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) asked his constituents recently if it was time for new regulations on social media. U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) told CNBC there should be some regulation of Facebook

John Doherty, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, believes federal and state policymakers should make sure sufficient resources are being deployed to enforce current privacy laws. He also stressed the importance of lawmakers holding data holders accountable if they break laws that require disclosure of data breaches. 

Since The Guardian and The New York Times published articles March 17 on the data scandal, several lawsuits have been filed against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. One lawsuit, filed April 5 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges both companies violated California’s Unfair Competition Law. It requests “monetary relief” paid to Taylor Picha and, as a proposed class action, to others similarly affected. 


John Doherty, president of the Civil Justice Association of California  

Doherty believes Facebook is doing what it needs to do to make sure its users' private data isn’t misused again and to restore the faith of consumers. 

“I don’t think we want to lose sight of the fact that you had a vendor who was behaving in terms they had promised not to (behave),” Doherty said. “They bear a large portion of the responsibility for the misuse.”

CJAC, a legal reform group, partners with a coalition of business organizations to work on bills related to individual privacy. 

“We try to encourage policies that require transparency and consent of the consumer for the use of their data and clear messages about privacy policies,” Doherty said. 

He doesn’t believe the lawsuits filed in the aftermath of the Facebook data scandal will have much of an impact preventing privacy violations. 

“I’m not saying that lawsuits are completely inappropriate, but they are going to be sort of an afterthought,” Doherty said. “They don’t prevent these type of unfortunate occurrences from happening. They don’t really shape what the response is.” 

Doherty noted that hacking and the misuse of data is going to continue to be a problem. 

“I think that the enforcement side needs more resources,” he said. “Privacy policies are thick and complicated because there's a lot of rules and regulations around them so we do think there is some room to try and fortify that for compliance sake.”

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Civil Justice Association of California Facebook, Inc.

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