Court’s Ruling Agrees with Testimony of Compass Lexecon Affiliate Professor Anindya Ghose
In December 2018, the District of Columbia (“DC”) filed a complaint in DC Superior Court against Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, Inc., alleging violations of DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Pointing to public allegations regarding Cambridge Analytica’s access to data from Facebook users, DC claimed that Facebook’s policies relating to consumer privacy, such as the extent to which third parties can access user data, were misrepresented or undisclosed to consumers. DC also claimed that Facebook’s explanations to consumers about how to change their privacy settings were “confusing and difficult to understand.”
Defense counsel Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP engaged Compass Lexecon and its affiliated expert, New York University Professor Anindya Ghose, to evaluate Facebook’s data privacy policies and privacy settings. Professor Ghose filed an expert report that put Facebook’s written policies in the context of changes over time in the ways consumers understand privacy and how they use Facebook. He further showed that, over its history, Facebook’s policies and settings were comparable to, and at times more progressive than, benchmark policies and settings of competing apps. Professor Ghose also filed a rebuttal report addressing analyses by DC’s expert, showing that they were methodologically flawed and that they failed to place Facebook’s policies and settings in the proper industry context, as well as ignoring the conclusions of relevant academic literature on privacy.
On June 1, 2023, Judge Maurice A. Ross of the DC Superior Court agreed with Professor Ghose and granted Meta’s motion for summary judgment, stating, “Facebook clearly and repeatedly made disclosures to users about its policies such that a reasonable user could not have been misled as a matter of law,” and that Facebook users “had numerous tools designed to educate users on their settings and how to protect their privacy … [I]t is difficult to imagine what else Facebook could have conceivably done to be more forthcoming about the privacy settings.”
Professor Ghose was supported by a team led by Todd Kendall that included Rodrigo Montes. Compass Lexecon worked with Robert Hur, Karen Portlock, Nathan Powell, Rachil Davids, and Zoey Goldnick at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, who successfully represented Meta.