The attorney general of the District of Columbia has sued (PDF) Facebook, alleging violations of local consumer protection laws.
In a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday, AG Karl A. Racine said that the social media giant did not adequately protect users’ data, “enabling abuses like one that exposed nearly half of all District residents’ data to manipulation for political purposes during the 2016 election.
The lawsuit is believed to be the first major regulatory lawsuit stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal that broke earlier this year.
“It allowed Cambridge Analytica to purchase personal information that was improperly obtained from 70 million [individuals], including 340,000 District of Columbia residents,” Racine said on a Wednesday call with reporters. “That’s nearly half of the people that live in the District of Columbia.”
Ben Wiseman, the director at the Office of Consumer Protection at the DC AG’s office, said that the lawsuit is seeking restitution and damages, including “civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation.”
340,000 users times $5,000 each would total $1.7 billion—but the case is likely to settle for far less than that.
Racine added that other states have expressed interest in joining this lawsuit.
“We think that bringing suit is necessary in order to bring these issues to light,” he said.
In the lawsuit, Racine points out that just 852 Facebook users in DC used Aleksandr Kogan’s “thisisyourdigitallife” personality quiz, but, due to the permissive data sharing that was in place at the time, hundreds of thousands of people were affected.
“Furthermore, after discovering the improper sale of consumer data by Kogan to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook failed to take reasonable steps to protect its consumers’ privacy by ensuring that the data was accounted for and deleted,” the complaint states.
“Facebook further failed to timely inform the public (including DC residents) that tens of millions of its consumers had their data sold to Cambridge Analytica, even though Facebook knew, or should have known, that such data was acquired in violation of its policies and was being used in connection with political advertising.”
Monique Hall, a Facebook spokeswoman, declined to respond to Ars’ questions about the new lawsuit but provided a corporate statement.
“We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere,” the statement read.