Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) on Tuesday filed a multi-million dollar consumer protection lawsuit against ride sharing company Uber, alleging thousands of violations of the state’s data breach notification law.
Uber discovered a data breach potentially affecting 57 million passengers and drivers around the world, including the names and driver’s license numbers of at least 10,888 Uber drivers in Washington.
Under a 2015 amendment to the state’s data breach law requested by Ferguson, consumers must be notified within 45 days of a breach, and the Attorney General’s Office also must be notified within 45 days if the breach affects 500 or more Washingtonians. This is the first lawsuit filed under the revised statute.
“Washington law is clear: When a data breach puts people at risk, businesses must inform them,” Ferguson said. “Uber’s conduct has been truly stunning. There is no excuse for keeping this information from consumers.”
The complaint, filed today in King County Superior Court, alleges thousands of violations of Washington’s data breach law by failing to notify affected drivers and the Attorney General’s Office within 45 days of the breach.
In November 2016, an individual contacted Uber claiming he had accessed Uber’s user information. Uber investigated and confirmed that person and one other individual had in fact accessed the company’s files, including the names, email addresses and telephone numbers of about 50 million passengers worldwide. If Uber’s assessment of the compromised data is correct, this type of information does not require notification under Washington’s law.
However, the hackers also obtained the names and driver’s license numbers of about 7 million drivers for the company. About 600,000 of those drivers live in the United States, and at least 10,888 live in Washington.
Uber notified the Attorney General’s Office of the breach Nov. 21, 2017, roughly 372 days after it discovered the breach. Rather than reporting the breach as required by law, the company has admitted to paying the hackers to destroy the stolen data.
This lawsuit does not address any data security issues that may have led to the breach. Today’s lawsuit does not preclude future action on other issues.
The office argues each day Uber failed to report for each individual qualifies as a separate violation under the law. Ferguson’s lawsuit asks for civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, which should result in a penalty in the millions of dollars. The state also asks for recovery of its costs and fees.