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The D.C. Attorney General Office is suing Facebook claiming the social media giant failed to safeguard users' data and improperly shared information with third-party applications, including with a controversial political research firm during the 2016 presidential election. The Washington Post reports that this is "the first major effort" by USA regulators to punish Facebook over its involvement with the British political consulting firm, which was allowed to gain access to personal data of millions of the social network's users without their permission.

The scandal turned the spotlight on Facebook and prompted mass criticism of how the company deals with user data and other privacy issues.

It alleges that Facebook misled users about the security of their data and failed to properly monitor third-party apps.

In total, the effort allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest insights on more than 87 million users around the world, including 71 million Americans, Facebook previously revealed.

In the lawsuit, Racine points out that just 852 Facebook users in DC used Aleksandr Kogan's "thisisyourdigitallife" personality quiz, but, due to the permissive data sharing that was in place at the time, hundreds of thousands of people were affected.

It also alleges that Facebook was aware in 2014 that the developer wanted to download the information about users' friends but "failed to monitor or audit the app". "In our lawsuit, we're seeking to hold Facebook accountable for jeopardizing and exposing the information" of its customers.

Facebook said: "We're reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere".

Their investigation found that Facebook violated the District's Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), which "prohibits unfair and deceptive trade practices".

The suit filed by the attorney general for the U.S. capital Washington is likely the first by an official United States body that could impose consequences on the world's leading social network for data misuse.

Mark Zuckerberg's net worth took a major hit this year after scandals plagued Facebook.

After the revelations about Cambridge Analytica, congressional hearings were held and Facebook changed what sort of data it lets outside developers access.

It remains unclear, however, whether the allegations that are being made against Facebook in the District of Columbia and in other complaints were against the law at the time, said Dora Kingsley Vertenten, professor of public policy at the University of Southern California.