Facebook prepares to defend yet more legal challenges as data woes continue
In February, a class action was brought against Facebook over allegations it failed to protect the personal details of about one million people in England and Wales. This is the second major UK data-related claim brought against Facebook in six months. Both relate to the scandal over data harvesting that began with allegations that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy, accessed the personal data of millions of Facebook users.
The latest claim alleges that third-party app “This Is Your Digital Life” gathered Facebook users’ data without permission or knowledge between 2013 and 2015. This follows the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) consideration of the data harvesting allegations in 2018 which resulted in Facebook being fined £500,000 for the unfair processing of personal data of users. During that investigation, the ICO found that Facebook were allowing app developers to access user information as well as information about users’ friends without clear and informed consent. It was estimated that the app collected personal data from up to 87 million users globally, with Facebook itself estimating that at least one million UK users were affected.
As there was a similar class action brought in October by the Facebook group, You Owe Us, there is a chance the High Court might take action to merge the two claims. Either way, it seems as though there is a trend developing of pressure being placed on the social media giants to ensure that they are complying with their duty to safeguard their users’ personal information – a duty that it seems may have been neglected in the past. The Supreme Court's decision on opt out data-related group actions in the Lloyd v Google case may only accelerate this trend.