Facebook and Cambridge Analytica could face “one of the largest ever group actions of its kind in the UK Courts”
March 28, 2018
Social media giant Facebook and controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica could face legal action from thousands of people in the UK, after lawyers confirmed they are considering launching a group action against the businesses.
Cambridge Analytica and tech giant Facebook are at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data – and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election, or, more relevantly in the UK, the Brexit referendum.
The data analytics firm is accused of harvesting the data of 50 million Facebook users worldwide without permission and failing to delete it when told to. Making matters worse, while Facebook found out about the breach in 2015, the social media giant failed to alert its users, and did not take adequate steps to recover and secure the private information.
Data breach solicitors Hayes Connor has confirmed it is preparing for a group action once the relevant investigations are complete.
“What’s emerged so far could just be the tip of the iceberg,” said Kingsley Hayes, managing director of Hayes Connor Solicitors, whose firm is also pursuing a group action against consumer credit reporting agency, Equifax.
“We could be talking about one of the largest ever group actions of its kind in the UK courts. We have received enquiries from hundreds of concerned Facebook users in the UK already.”
Barrister Ian Whitehurst from Exchange Chambers, who has been instructed on this case, has developed a practice in the field of data breach claims for individuals and companies who have had their personal and sensitive data breached by third parties. He has previously advised claimants in relation to potential data breaches by the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Work and Pensions, local authorities and a national broadcaster.
Commenting on the potential action he said: “A group action is undoubtedly the best way forward for data breach claims of this nature. It allows people with the same type of claim in principle to bring it together on a collective basis to strengthen their overall position and increase their chances of settlement or success in litigation.
“What’s more, with a group action claimants often share the legal fees. Even better, while the cost of pursuing small claims can be a barrier to justice, by grouping cases together, solicitors are often able to run group actions on a on a no win-no fee basis.”
Commenting on what people can do if they suspect their data has been breached in relation to this scandal, Mr Hayes added: “For anyone worried that their data has been exposed by Facebook, there are a few simple steps they can follow. Start by checking the apps you have enabled through Facebook. To do this, go to settings and click ‘Apps’ on the left sidebar. Make a list of the app that have/had access to your Facebook account and note down why you are concerned about them.
“Next, look out for a letter from Facebook. The social media giant has promised to inform users if their data was accessed by any apps that might have mis-used it. You should also set out why you think your data has been breached. For example, have you been targeted on Facebook by any political parties or causes that you are not affiliated with?
“It is also important to inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about your concerns. At present the ICO is undertaking an investigation into the activities of Facebook and the retention, sharing and distribution of data illegally in the UK.”