Facebook sued for failing to protect users’ data

Instructed by journalist and writer, Peter Jukes, Hausfeld has filed a claim against Facebook in the High Court in respect of a loss of control over his personal data and the personal data of around a million other affected Facebook users in England and Wales.

The consumer representative action is brought on behalf of affected Facebook users who fell victim to Facebook’s failure to protect their personal data between November 2013 and May 2015. In this period, Facebook allowed a third-party app called This is Your Digital Life to access not only the personal information of users who downloaded the app, but also the personal information of their Facebook friends. This was done entirely without their knowledge or consent and opened up that information to abuse by third parties such as Cambridge Analytica. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) described it as “a very serious data incident”.

Personal data harvested in this way included things like name, gender, location, tagged photographs and pages liked. As the ICO found, Facebook users’ data was placed at serious risk of being used in connection with political campaigning.

The claim

This representative action seeks damages from Facebook, on behalf of affected individuals in England and Wales, as a result of Facebook’s failure to comply with its statutory duties under the Data Protection Act 1998. The claim is being brought against Facebook Inc. and Facebook Ireland Limited under Rule 19.6 of the Civil Procedure Rules, by which a representative claimant can bring a claim on behalf of a class of people with the same interest. Everyone with the same interest as the class representative is included in the claimant class unless they choose to opt-out. The dedicated claim website offers full details.

Peter Jukes explains why he is bringing the claim:

“Facebook profits from its billions of users, who reasonably rely on the platform to protect the personal information they entrust to it. Facebook exploited that trust by making users’ private data available to a third-party app, without their consent or even knowledge. This opened our personal data up to abuse. It is only right that we, as consumers, hold Facebook to account for failing to comply with the law and for putting our personal data at risk, and to ensure that this is not allowed to happen again.”

Michael Bywell, Partner at Hausfeld, said:

“Facebook breached its legal obligations to protect the data of its users. The law is clear that Facebook had a duty to safeguard users’ personal information – a duty that it neglected. With an experienced team, committed class representative and funding and ATE insurance in place, we believe this claim offers the best avenue of redress for consumers who suffered at the hands of Facebook’s failure to abide by data protection laws.”

The affected users on whose behalf the claim is brought will not pay any costs or fees to participate in the legal action and have no financial risk in relation to the claim, which is funded by Balance Legal Capital and has ATE (After the Event) insurance in place.

This is Your Digital Life app

According to the ICO, the This is Your Digital Life app was used by around 300,000 Facebook users worldwide and it has been estimated that the app collected personal data from up to 87 million users globally. Facebook itself estimates that at least one million UK users were affected.

On 25 October 2018, the ICO issued its maximum penalty of £500,000 to Facebook for serious breaches of data protection law. In a statement, the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said:

“Facebook failed to sufficiently protect the privacy of its users before, during and after the unlawful processing of this data. A company of its size and expertise should have known better and it should have done better”. In respect of the scale of the penalty, she noted: “We considered these contraventions to be so serious we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation. The fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR. One of our main motivations for taking enforcement action is to drive meaningful change in how organisations handle people’s personal data.”

About Peter Jukes

Peter Jukes is the representative claimant in the action. He is a prominent journalist and writer for TV and film. He is the Founder and Executive Editor of the Byline Times, a platform for freelance reporters and writers to produce journalism not found in the mainstream media. He previously worked as a reporter for Newsweek/Daily Beast and has written investigative reports, features and commentary for the Guardian, Independent, Observer, New York Times, Politico, Prospect Magazine and others.

He was awarded the best reporter on social media award by Press Gazette for his live coverage of the famous phone hacking trial (Britain’s longest-running criminal trial) and his book, ‘Beyond Contempt’ was published by Canbury Press in 2014. Peter has also written series for the BBC and produced and presented the Number 1 iTunes podcast, 'Untold: the Daniel Morgan Murder', which has been downloaded over 10 million times. Peter helped Cambridge Analytica whistle-blowers come forward in 2017 and 18, to shed light on the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

For additional information, such as details of the claims and eligibility or to register interest, please visit www.facebookdatabreachclaim.co.uk.

The claim was reported widely in the news:

BBC News
City AM
Computer Weekly (subscription only)
Daily Mail
Global Data Review (subscription only)
Law360 (subscription only
Law.com (subscripton only)
The Irish Times
The Lawyer (Litigation Tracker subscription only)
The Mirror
The National (Scotland)
The Telgraph (subscription only)
Thomson Reuters 
Yahoo! News