Seventy million people may seek legal and equitable remedies from the social media giant

In April, class action attorneys filed civil complaints in California federal court on behalf of millions of social media fans. The lawsuits focus on evidence encircling Cambridge Analytica’s exploitation of Facebook user information and the company’s profiting from converting private data without consent.

Three Facebook Messenger users are also suing the company in a class action, alleging the social network violated their privacy rights after its Messenger app scraped data from their phone calls and text messages without permission.

The legal actions emerge as Facebook faces heat from the Federal Trade Commission and Congress who want to know from CEO Mark Zuckerberg how the data breaches happened.

Messenger Class Action

A U.S. lawsuit filed in federal court in the Northern District of California seeks class action certification on behalf of Android users who assert Facebook’s Messenger product violated their privacy by collecting confidential data after they downloaded the app.

Tech publisher, Ars Technica, claims it has evidence that Facebook unlawfully gathered decades worth of user contact names, telephone numbers, call lengths and text messages and later converted the information into advertising revenue.

Facebook introduced the data collection component on Messenger in 2015 and added it to Facebook Lite shortly after.

Last week, Facebook admitted it began uploading call and text information from Android phones three years ago.

However, the social network says it gathered the data only from users who gave proper consent, and the company maintained it never collected message or call content.

Facebook also alleges it downloaded no private information from people who opted out of data collection, and users who opted in may always delete their stored data logs by modifying their app settings.

The social media giant further asserts its End User Agreement advises folks Messenger and Facebook Lite collects personal data when individuals sign up and that its apps “will continuously log information” while running unless users turn off the feature.

Yet, the “opt out” language and instruction hides deep within the fine print of Facebook’s user agreement. Plaintiffs also claim even after reading and agreeing with Facebook’s disclosures, the app’s complicated user interface makes it difficult for individuals to find the proper settings to disengage data collection.

Class members are seeking legal redress and are petitioning the courts for a permanent injunction that will require Facebook to destroy all downloaded consumer call and text information since 2015 and to cease and desist in collecting similar data.

Lead attorneys are now searching for potential class members as the lawsuit starts the discovery stage. Any US Facebook user who installed Facebook Messenger or Facebook Lite apps in their Android phone after 2015 may join this class action.

Cambridge Analytica Class Action

Class action authorities filed a consumer protection lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California (case#18-cv-02127) alleging Facebook negligently leaked millions of user data to Cambridge University four years ago.

In 2014, Russian analyst, Aleksandr Kogan, built the Facebook quiz app “thisismydigitallife” for the purpose of psychographic profiling 250,000 Facebook users. However, Kogan’s app also secretly targeted and gathered data from the trial subjects’ “friends” and “friend of friends.”

Kogan’s app collected particular private information including user profile data; user friend networks; email addresses of a user’s friend and their friends of friends; locations on where the user visited; and many year’s worth of user “like” information gathered from photos, comments, and status.

The outcome resulted in Kogan obtaining data from more than fifty million US Facebook users who never consented to give him their confidential information.

Cambridge Analytica later paid Cambridge University, Kogan’s employer, for all collected data and received six million dollars for the exploited Facebook user information from political candidates during the US presidential election of 2016.

Class members allege Facebook’s careless rapacity to bring in revenue from Kogan’s app installation and the social network’s negligent monitoring of its vendor’s exploitation of its website lead to Cambridge Analytica’s capture of non-consented user data.

Plaintiffs further assert Facebook infringed on its user agreement terms and policies when the social network disclosed user information without permission, which also violated privacy and consumer protection statutes.

The lawsuit calls for Facebook to pay legal damages, including punitive damages, and it seeks an injunction to compel Facebook to end unfair and deceptive data collection business practices at once.  

Invasion of Privacy Rights

The US Supreme Court has held that all Americans own a widely accepted right to privacy. A breach of these freedoms occurs when companies like Facebook unjustifiably intrudes on confidentiality by misappropriating one’s private digital information or by publicly disclosing private facts.

Victims can bring civil lawsuits to recover from invasion of privacy by establishing prima facie cases in tort theory that assert defendants invaded confidentiality for financial profit which led to their unjust enrichment.

Also known as disgorgement, victims cay seek restitution by petitioning the courts to force intruding defendants to surrender actual and consequential profits from the misappropriation of personal information.

In both actions cited above, class members hold strong evidence that Facebook exploited privileged consumer data through its online apps and delivered private user information to Cambridge University without permission.

Damages are then warranted since reasonable individuals may consider Facebook’s acts highly abusive, and the government may further hold legitimate public concerns when companies sell their client’s private information to third parties for profit.