A Superior Court judge on Thursday dismissed a privacy lawsuit against Meta by the District of Columbia, which had accused the company of deceiving consumers by improperly sharing their data with third parties, including the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
The decision was a rare victory for Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as it battles lawsuits filed by the federal government, states, foreign regulators and consumers in privacy, antitrust and consumer protection disputes.
In his opinion, Judge Maurice A. Ross of Superior Court for the District of Columbia said Facebook’s policies had clearly disclosed how third parties could obtain data “such that a reasonable consumer could not have been misled” under the district’s consumer protection law.
The district’s attorney general at the time, Karl Racine, filed the lawsuit in 2018 after revelations that Cambridge Analytica had obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users — including those in the District of Columbia — without their consent. Mr. Racine accused Facebook of violating the district’s law.
But Judge Ross said Facebook not only had adequately informed users of how data could be shared with third parties but had provided instructions on how to limit data sharing. He added that Facebook had taken adequate steps to investigate Cambridge Analytica and inform users after press reports about the activity emerged.
“While the district may disagree with Facebook’s approach to the situation, there is no legal basis that required Facebook to act differently,” Judge Ross said. “Facebook did not materially mislead consumers as to their response to Cambridge Analytica.”
A spokesman for the District of Columbia attorney general’s office, Gabriel Shoglow-Rubenstein, said in a statement, “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering all of our options.”
Meta declined to comment.