Facebook faces record lawsuit after huge data breach

Civil action could conceivably include millions of claimants, after 90 million accounts were hacked

(Image credit: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook could face its largest ever class action lawsuit after the personal data of up to 90 million users, including its founder and chief operating officer, were hacked.

The huge data breach, which is believed to have affected tens of thousands of Facebook’s 30m-plus UK users, “has turned out to be more severe than was first thought, with concerns hackers were able to access not only Facebook accounts but also other apps that use Facebook for their sign-in functions” says The Sunday Times.

It is also believed to have affected the company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and European vice-president, Nicola Mendelsohn.

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Just hours after Facebook revealed details of the hack on Friday, which prompted its share price to drop 3%, a class action lawsuit was filed against the social media giant in America.

Carla Echavarria of Calilfornia and Derrick Walker of Virginia allege Facebook’s lack of scrutiny has left them more vulnerable to identity theft, and are suing for statutory damages and penalties.

Keith Oliver at the London law firm Peters & Peters told The Times that the company “could conceivably face the largest class action ever with millions of claimants — although that requires individuals to be aware they have a claim”.

“Facebook has a headquarters in London, so who is to say somebody won’t a launch a claim here?” he added.

The breach “comes at a time when the firm is struggling to convince lawmakers in the US and beyond, that it is capable of protecting user data”, says the BBC.

It has prompted calls from MPs to allow regulators in to investigate and renewed demands for Zuckerberg to appear in Parliament to answer questions about data security.

Damian Collins, the chair of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee responsible for investigating the illegal use of user data during the Brexit referendum, said there is “no outside scrutiny” at Facebook and that there was now a “lack of trust” in the social media giant.

MarketWatch says the hack rounds off a “horrible week” for Facebook, “showing off in just a few days why any investor should be concerned about the world’s largest social network right now”.

Last Monday, the New York Times reported that the co-founders of Instagram, which was bought by the social media giant in 2012 were leaving Facebook over alleged concerns about privacy. Then on Wednesday, Forbes published an interview with Brian Acton, one of the co-founders of WhatsApp, in which he said he disagreed with Zuckerberg over how to make money from the messaging service.

It compounds a miserable 12 months for Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, after claims the platform was used to spread propaganda in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum in Britain and the US presidential election and it was revealed user data had been illegally used by analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to micro-target swing voters.

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