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Houston man sues Facebook, Cambridge Analytica; What to know about his class-action lawsuit

(KPRC)
(KPRC)

HOUSTON – A Houston man sued Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Friday in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 50 million Facebook users who may be impacted by the social network's massive data breach.

Matthew Lodowski is suing the social network Facebook, the data company Cambridge Analytica LLC, New York businessman Robert Leroy Mercer and psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan, of Cambridge, England.

The suit alleges that private and personal profile data was obtained from Facebook users without their consent or knowledge “in excess of the authorization granted by Facebook and Facebook users, in violation of the Stored Communications Act,” and Facebook “failed to protect its user data, and … failed to take reasonable measure necessary to retrieve the data … and notify its users … and only spoke publicly on the issue after news stories exposed their negligent behavior.”

The lawsuit also claims Kogan, Cambridge Analytic LLC and Mercer conspired together to mine data from Facebook users.

The lawsuit alleges that the information mined from people’s account was initially cleared by Facebook because it was for “academic” reasons, but it was actually used for commercial use by Kogan and Cambridge Analytica.

The suit seeks damages of $1,000 per violation and relief from Kogan and Cambridge Analytica for violating privacy rights, according to documents.

The lawsuit comes after the scandal erupted last weekend when The New York Times and UK's The Observer newspaper reported that Cambridge Analytica harvested data from more than 50 million Facebook users.

The data "allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump's campaign in 2016," the Times reported.

Facebook officials say the data in question was properly gathered a few years ago by psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan, who said he was using the data for academic purposes.

But in 2014, it wound up in the possession of Cambridge Analytica, which was working to develop techniques that could be used to influence voters and was later hired by Donald Trump's campaign.

In a statement Friday, officials with Cambridge Analytica reiterated previous claims that it did not use any of the data during its work for Trump.

Facebook officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit.