29 October 2020
London – Facebook You Owe Us has today launched a group legal action against technology giant Facebook. The claim is being led by Alvin Carpio, data privacy champion, who is representing the almost one million users in the England and Wales affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Group legal actions like Facebook You Owe Us will pave the way for consumers in the UK to gain redress and compensation for the persistent mass misuse of personal data by the world’s largest companies.
Facebook has exhibited a pattern of unethical behaviour including allegations of election interference and failing to remove fake news. The Information Commissioners Office noted when issuing a £500,000 fine against Facebook for the Cambridge Analytica data breach that “protection of personal information and personal privacy is of fundamental importance, not only for the rights of individuals, but also as we now know, for the preservation of a strong democracy.” Facebook You Owe Us aims to fight back by holding the company to account for failing to protect Facebook users’ personal data and showing that Facebook is not above the law.
The launch of Facebook You Owe Us follows Google You Owe Us’ victory in the Court of Appeal. The Google You Owe Us case has been appealed by Google and is now scheduled to be heard before the Supreme Court in April 2021. If successful, the case will demonstrate that personal data is of value to individuals and that companies cannot simply take it and profit from it illegally. Both cases are led by James Oldnall at Milberg London LLP, with Richard Lloyd, the former executive director of Which?.
In 2013 and 2014, thousands of people participated in the thisisyourdigitallife app on Facebook. Facebook allowed this app to harvest the data of the app user’s friends without their friends’ permission or knowledge, including Alvin Carpio, the representative claimant.
By taking data without consent, it is alleged that Facebook failed to meet their legal obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Facebook has a troubling history of undermining consumer privacy and breaching data protection law and was fined £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in November 2019 for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, comically insignificant compared to Facebook’s 2019 revenue of $70 billion. Not one penny of the ICO fine was paid to affected Facebook users.
The ICO investigation concluded that Facebook failed to provide the kind of protections they are required to under the Data Protection Act. However, the ICO’s findings were successfully appealed by Facebook on procedural grounds. The ICO also does not have the power to order Facebook provide those affected with any sort of compensation.
Not only did Facebook apologise, they allowed users to check which “banned apps” have accessed their data. If you received a notice at the time or would like to find out if your data was impacted you can check here. We encourage you to ask your friends and family to check if they were affected
The claim is led by group litigation experts Milberg London and supported by Richard Lloyd, the team bringing the unprecedented Google You Owe Us group legal action.
Alvin Carpio, representative claimant against Facebook, said:
“When we use Facebook, we expect that our personal data is being used responsibly, transparently, and legally. We rightly expect that, when Facebook friends use apps like thisisyourdigitallife, Facebook does not leave the door open for third parties to abuse our data. Our friends’ consent is not our consent.
By failing to protect our personal information from abuse, we believe that Facebook broke the law. Paying less than 0.01% of your annual revenue in fines – pocket change to Facebook – is clearly a punishment that does not fit the crime.
Three years on, almost nothing has been done to hold Facebook to account. Apologising for breaking the law is simply not enough. Facebook, you owe us honesty, responsibility and redress. We will fight to hold Facebook to account.”
James Oldnall, Managing Partner Milberg London, said:
“For almost three years Facebook has faced limited consequences for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is abundantly clear that Facebook failed to uphold their obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Cases like Facebook You Owe Us and Google You Owe Us provide consumers with an essential route to redress. The courts are beginning to recognise that personal data has value, and that representative actions are a suitable mechanism to hold companies to account for abusing or misusing that data.”Back