This week, Facebook responded to a legal proceeding relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal by claiming it isn’t a social network and not somewhere you can make friends.
As Ars Technica reports, the lawsuit was filed in December last year by District of Columbia (DC) attorney general Karl Racine. It declared that of the 70 million people who had personal data taken by Cambridge Analytica, 340,000 were residents of DC. Racine is demanding $5,000 in civil penalties per resident, which might mean Facebook has got to pay out $1.7 billion.
As you’d expect, the social network is fighting the case hard. The explanation it’s taken so long for a response to be forthcoming is as a result of Facebook spent nearly seven months trying to get the legal proceeding dismissed. That isn’t happening because of a federal judge.
Facebook’s response is serious on the denials, with a “denies the allegations” being stated for most of the 76 paragraphs contained within the lawsuit filing. Curiously, one flat out denial covers Paragraph 11, which states:
To begin using the Facebook website, a client 1st creates a Facebook account. The patron can then add other Facebook customers as “friends” and by accumulating Facebook friends, the patron builds a social network on the Facebook website.
So Facebook is denying it’s a destination that enables customers to sign-up, adds their friends, and builds a social network. I’m pretty certain that’s the practicality Facebook’s entire business model is based upon, which makes this a suspicious and confusing response. Is this a lawyer that’s being a bit heavy handed with copy-pasting a denial, or some plan of action in law to undertake and derail the lawsuit?
Overall, Facebook’s defense against this lawsuit comes down to the very fact it absolutely was a third-party and not Facebook directly that improperly obtained personal data. If that isn’t accepted by the court, then the social network (yes, it’s one) may have to pay out billions, especially as this lawsuit is definitely solely going to be the first of the many if it proves successful.