Illinois AG Can Proceed With Own Case Against Facebook, Judge Rules

In a blow to Facebook, a federal judge ruled that Illinois Attorney General Kimberly Foxx may proceed in state court with claims stemming from Cambridge Analytica's data grab.

The ruling means Facebook will have to defend itself in Cambridge Analytica-related lawsuits in more than one jurisdiction at the same time. Currently, the company is facing a class-action in federal court in California on behalf of consumers, a complaint brought last month by Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, and Foxx's suit.

Foxx sued the company last March, soon after it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, President Trump's data consultancy, harvested information from tens of millions of Facebook users.

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Cambridge Analytica obtained the data from Alexsandr Kogan, a professor who collected the information in 2014 via his personality-quiz app "thisisyourdigitallife." That app was downloaded by 270,000 Facebook users, but Kogan was able to gather information about millions of those users' friends.

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.

Foxx's lawsuit alleged that Facebook violated a state consumer protection law by misrepresenting that users' data would be protected.

Soon after Foxx sued, Facebook sought to consolidate the case with a pending class-action lawsuit on behalf of consumers.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California rejected Facebook's arguments in favor of consolidation, ruling that Foxx has the right to proceed with an enforcement action in Illinois.

“It’s clear that Foxx’s lawsuit serves primarily the interests of the State of Illinois,” he wrote. “The lawsuit seeks civil penalties that private citizens could not obtain -- penalties that would punish fraud against Illinois residents and deter future similar wrongdoing in the State. It seeks statewide injunctive relief to prevent future violation of the privacy rights of a large and diffuse group of Illinois residents.”

Facebook has also asked Chhabria to dismiss the consumer class-action lawsuit for several reasons, including that users whose data was taken allegedly agreed to share that data with developers.

Chhabria hasn't yet ruled on that request.

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