Facebook may owe users $11,000

HACKED Facebook users in the UK could be owed as much as $11,000 in compensation as a result of the security breach revealed last week.

Legal experts have told The Sun that damages could run into the "thousands" for anyone affected by the hack - if you can prove that you felt distressed.

Last Friday, Facebook revealed that hackers gained access to 50 million accounts.

Described as a security "disaster" by experts, the breach was possible thanks to several bugs in Facebook's systems which were exploited by hackers.

It meant that attackers were able to log in as absolutely anyone, accessing their profiles, photos, friend lists and even private messages.

Facebook logged 90 million users out as a safety precaution, but the bugs had been live in the website's code since June 2017.

Legal experts at UK office of law firm Slater and Gordon have revealed that affected users could make a claim against Facebook.

Gareth Pope, head of group litigation at the firm, said it would be possible for users based in the UK to file a "civil claim" under the EU's new GDPR data protection regulations, which came into force earlier this year.

"There are certain rules - one of those is the security principle, which means (Facebook) has to secure your data with appropriate technical and organisational measures," Mr Pope said.

He said this rule is "nice and wide" and gives Facebook users the best chance of squeezing some cash out of the social network.

"If you have left a laptop on the train without a password then that's not secured data," he explained.

"If you have left open the doors of your system to hackers then you have also not secured your data."

According to Mr Pope, Article 82 of the GDPR rules lets anybody bring "a claim for compensation against Facebook if they have suffered material or non-material damage".

"That's where you're going to get them on the breach of the law - under GDPR, you've not adhered to the security principle under those laws," he said.

It used to be the case that Facebook users would have had to prove financial loss to get compensation. But that's no longer true.


Facebook users may be able to launch civil lawsuits against the company.
Facebook users may be able to launch civil lawsuits against the company.

"You could say, 'Hackers gained control of my Facebook account, that has caused me some sort of distress,' and that is now enough," he said.

He added that joining up to a group action, rather than taking on Facebook alone, would be wisest too.

"If you act as a group, you're more likely to bring Facebook to the table and take your claims more seriously," Mr Pope told The Sun.


According to Mr Pope, the potential compensation from a civil lawsuit "is infinite" - but it's unlikely anyone will get millions from billionaire Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.

Instead, it's closer to thousands.

"When looking at the hack of a social account, I would think that would be several thousands of pounds of damage."

You'll have a better chance of getting more money if something bad actually happened to you after the Facebook hack.

"The court will have to attribute a value to the degree of suffering that you have suffered yourself," he said.

"And so, for example, that could be quite a wide range. If somebody had info taken and nobody knows who took it - and nothing happened - then you could say you felt distress.

"If somebody hacked a business and all sorts of business details and trade secrets, and managed to get financial info, and they lost money, obviously the compensation will be higher."

Gareth said his own firm Slater and Gordon would consider taking the case on, but they'd need someone to fund the suit, as hacked users could probably only expect a few thousand pounds in compensation.

"It's certainly something we would look at," he said.

"It's more complex than saying, 'Yes, it's a winnable' case. We would obviously need to work out how the claim was funded, we'd need a litigation funder.

"We wouldn't expect claimants would want to pay us to run the claim for probably only £4000, £5000, £6000 ($A7000-$A11,000) worth of compensation.

"We'd also need an insurance policy so clients wouldn't have to pay Facebook's legal costs if we lose."


It's also possible that Facebook might decide to settle the matter out of court and just pay hacked users a fee.

Facebook is currently worth around $658 billion and employs some of the best legal minds in the world, but the empire could find a court battle too costly.

"Facebook has essentially unlimited resources. If these claims are probably not (worth) tens of thousands then they might be several thousands at least.

"You're gonna start thinking about cost and benefit."

This originally appeared on The Sun and is reproduced with permission.

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