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Facebook sued by Washington DC over data breach

This AFP file photo taken on May 16, 2018, shows the logo of the social network Facebook on a broken screen of a mobile phone in Paris, France.

The top legal officer in Washington, DC, has sued Facebook over privacy violations related to personal data leaked to the now defunct political consultancy group Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the US capital city by the District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine would be the first by an official US body, the Washington Post reported.

The lawsuit alleges Facebook misled users by allowing several app makers it called partners “to override Facebook consumers’ privacy settings and access their information without their knowledge or consent,” the newspaper reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

“Facebook could have prevented third parties from misusing its consumers’ data had it implemented and maintained reasonable oversight of third-party applications,” according to the lawsuit.

The court could award unspecified damages and impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation of the district’s consumer protection law, or potentially close to $1.7 billion, if penalized for each consumer affected.

Facebook shares sank on Wednesday following the lawsuit. The company’s stock fell 7.25 percent, its biggest intraday drop since July, taking losses for the year to about 24 percent.

Investors are concerned about snowballing legal and regulatory efforts over data use policies that have upset many customers and could carry significant penalties and costs.

It was revealed in March that Facebook allowing British data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data from as many as 87 million users.

The massive data breach sparked investigations around the world.

“We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere,” Facebook said in a statement.

The New York Times reported new details on Tuesday about the user data that remained available to such partners years after they had shut down features that required them.

Facebook acknowledged the lapse in a blog post but said it had not found evidence of wrongdoing by those partners.

In response, both Democrat and Republican lawmakers criticized the company and queried whether Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg had lied to Congress in hearings earlier this year.

“Zuckerberg told Congress that Facebook users had ‘complete control’ over their data. Sure looks like he lied,” tweeted Representative David Cicilline, the incoming chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee.

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