Facebook Says Users Have No Grounds For Suit Over Cambridge Analytica

Facebook users who are suing the company over data transfers to political consultancy Cambridge Analytica have "no viable claim" because they consented to sharing the information, the social networking service says in new court papers.

"The problem with Cambridge Analytica was not that Facebook shared data without user consent -- all users did consent -- but that the app developer, Aleksandr Kogan, obtained the user data and sold it to Cambridge Analytica in violation of Facebook’s policies," Facebook writes in papers filed Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.

"Plaintiffs’ counsel has admitted that this is not a data breach case, in which users’ data was obtained against their will," the company adds. "And if Plaintiffs disagree that people should be permitted to consent to sharing their data with apps, their remedy is not in the courts where they have no viable claim."

The company's statements come in a lawsuit over this year's revelations that President Trump's data consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, obtained personal information for as many as 87 million Facebook users.

Cambridge Analytica, how defunct, received the data from researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who obtained the information in 2014 through the personality-quiz app "thisisyourdigitallife." Only 270,000 Facebook users downloaded Kogan's app, but he was able to gather data about many of those users' contacts.

The revelations sparked an ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation, Congressional scrutiny and a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Facebook's users.

In April of 2015, Facebook stopped allowing developers to access data about users' friends. But in 2014, when Kogan's app scraped the data, Facebook allowed developers to glean information about users' friends, subject to their privacy settings. Facebook's terms of service prohibited developers from sharing that information.

The company says in court papers that Facebook's users have no grounds to sue because they would have consented to sharing the data. "Facebook users (like users of apps on other platforms) consent to their data being shared with third-party apps or have the option to turn off such sharing entirely," the company writes. "Facebook’s terms of service and data use policy ... make this expressly and abundantly clear. And with respect to the sharing of data with apps by a user’s Facebook friends, that was also done only with the consent of the user whose data was shared (until that feature was eliminated in 2015)."

Facebook also suggests in its papers that Chhabria has already expressed skepticism about whether the case should proceed. The company's lawyers say that at a recent case management conference, Chhabria "repeatedly asked plaintiffs to explain how their factual allegations amount to civil liability against Facebook."

Facebook's new papers specifically respond to a request by the plaintiffs' counsel for an order requiring the company to disclose evidence that may relate to the lawsuit -- including information about Facebook's agreements with developers with access to data about users. Facebook argues that the request for that type of information is premature, noting that it plans to ask Chhabria to dismiss the case at a preliminary stage. 

1 comment about "Facebook Says Users Have No Grounds For Suit Over Cambridge Analytica".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, August 21, 2018 at 7:24 a.m.

    But teacher, it was the dog that ate my homework, not me.

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