Facebook faces 'mass action' lawsuit over data breach

Digital Rights Ireland is urging European Facebook users who have been affected to sign up

Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) is commencing a “mass action” lawsuit against Facebook on behalf of people who have been caught up in the data breach affecting 533 million users.

Anyone who has been affected and lives in the European Union or European Economic Area should seek monetary damages from Facebook, stated the group, which pointed out that GDPR gives the right to monetary compensation where data protection rights have been breached.

Users who have been affected are being advised to check Have I Been Pwned to see if their data was found in the latest breach, and then to then join the mass action case against Facebook.

We understand people's concerns, which is why we continue to strengthen our systems to make scraping from Facebook without our permission more difficult and go after the people behind it," a Facebook spokesperson told IT Pro.

"As LinkedIn and Clubhouse have shown, no company can completely eliminate scraping or prevent data sets like these from appearing. That's why we devote substantial resources to combat it and will continue to build out our capabilities to help stay ahead of this challenge.”

News of the lawsuit comes after the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) announced last week it has launched an inquiry into the alleged Facebook data leak. As the social network has its European headquarters in Dublin, it falls to the Irish regulator to investigate whether the social media giant complied with its data controller responsibilities when it came to processing personal data of its users.

The regulator found that of the 533 million users affected in the leak, a “significant number” are EU users, and it highlighted that much of the data seems to have been scraped some time ago from public Facebook profiles.

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The data was reportedly published in 2018 and 2019 and is thought to have been scraped between June 2017 and April 2018. This is important, as GDPR came into effect on 25 May 2018. If the social media company can demonstrate the scraping occurred before this date, any potential regulatory action would be referred to under the Data Protection Directive. This devolves the responsibility to member states.

The data, that was published on a low-level hacking forum, was downloadable for free and allowed anyone to look up a user’s record using their phone number. The information available included phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, previous locations, birth dates, relationship statuses and biographies.

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