D.C. Attorney General Sues Facebook Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal

"Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used,” D.C. attorney general Karl Racine said in a statement.

Washington, D.C., attorney general Karl Racine has filed a lawsuit against Facebook in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that erupted in the spring. The lawsuit represents the first time government regulators are going after the social networking giant for its business dealings with the data firm. 

In the lawsuit, first reported by The Washington Post, Racine describes Facebook's "failure...to honor its promise to protect its consumers' personal data." It goes on to say that the situation with Cambridge Analytica was brought on by Facebook's "lax oversight and enforcement of third-party applications." 

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company is "reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere."

In March, The New York Times revealed that political data firm Cambridge Analytica had gained access to private information for some 50 million Facebook users that it then used to try to influence them ahead of the 2016 Presidential Election. 

The lawsuit comes as Facebook faces increased scrutiny over its handling of the data of its 2 billion users. The allegations have mounted against Facebook over the last year, culminating Dec. 18 with the latest New York Times report that the social network gave tech giants like Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon and Spotify significant access to users' personal data. 

"Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used,” Racine said in a statement. "Facebook put users at risk of manipulation by allowing companies like Cambridge Analytica and other third-party applications to collect personal data without users' permission. Today's lawsuit is about making Facebook live up to its promise to protect its users' privacy."

Facebook's actions relating to Cambridge Analytica and other third-party apps violates D.C.'s consumer protection laws, per the lawsuit. "Facebook could have prevented third parties from misusing its consumers' data had it implemented and maintained reasonable oversight of third-party applications consistent with its representations in its public statements, terms of service, and policies," the lawsuit contends.  

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin Facebook from violating D.C.'s Consumer Protection Procedures Act and to order Facebook to pay restitution or damages to consumers.  

The company's stock is trading down more than 5 percent on the news.