Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx’s office issued a news release about the lawsuit:
Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx today announced the her office has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) and SCL Group Limited and Cambridge Analytica LLC (“Cambridge Analytica”) over Cambridge Analytica’s improper harvesting of Facebook user data and Facebook’s failure to adequately protect that data. This resulted in the exploitation of personal data of 50 million Facebook users with the express purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election.
“Cambridge Analytic deliberately misled Facebook users so it could build psychological profiles of the user and their friends, and Facebook did not stop it,” said State’s Attorney Foxx. “This blatant deception violated Illinois law and more importantly violated the privacy of Illinois residents. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook must be held accountable for their actions.”
The suit alleges Cambridge Analytica used fraudulent and deceptive practices to gain information about 50 million Facebook users by mining – without users’ knowledge – information about every Facebook “friend” of people who took an online “personality quiz.” This improperly obtained data was used to create “psychographic profiles” on millions of American voters, with the purpose of influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The suit further alleges that Facebook engaged in deceptive practices by maintaining formal polices and representing to the public that strict limitations and protocols on data gathering were in place, while knowingly allowing app developers, including Cambridge Analytica, to accumulate and mine data vastly in excess of those policies.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and fines under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. A copy of the complaint is available here.
The lawsuit comes as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full page ads in several newspapers both in the U.S. and around the world to apologize for the data breach. He also broke his silence by posting a statement on his Facebook page and appearing for television interviews, but that was a little too late.