09 Aug 2022

Woman sues Facebook in High Court over account being hacked

Company says it moved quickly to restore full control to woman

A South Dublin woman has brought High Court proceedings against Facebook after a hacker took over and locked her out of her account.

The action has been brought by Sylvia O'Mahoney,  who claims she first became aware of the hack in mid-December when her social media contacts started receiving messages from her account that she did not send.

In reply Facebook accepts that her account was hacked, but says that it moved quicky to restore full control to her, and that all information she had sought concerning the hack had been provided to her.  

It's counsel Rossa Fanning SC told the court says like all other internet and e-commerce entities Facebook has issues with online security.

However, he said that there was no evidence before the court that Facebook could be held culpable for accounts being hacked. 

Ms O'Mahoney, who has a Facebook account for many years claims that after becoming aware that messages were being sent from her account, she tried to change her password on her account.

She said she was unable to do so, and was denied access to her account. In a sworn statement to the court, she said her friends started getting messages from her account. including invitations to like the business page of a decking company. 

In addition, her name profile changed to a 'Luo Yihan' instead of Sylvia O'Mahoney, and was concerned about the nature of some of content of the messages. 

She reported this through Facebook's automated complaints system due to her concerns about the unknown person's access to her private information including photos and personal messages.

She followed the instructions, including uploading picture ID, on at least two occasions, but said she claims she only got messages back in Chinese saying her issue had been resolved, which it had not.

As a result, she has brought proceedings against Facebook, where she claims her constitutional right to privacy and GDPR rights have been breached.

Ms O'Mahoney from Brighton Place, Foxrock, Co Dublin has brought proceedings against Facebook Ireland Ltd where she seeks orders including mandatory injunctions.

The injunctions would require Facebook to prevent the unknown person, identifying as Luo Yihan from using or accessing Ms O'Mahoney's account, and any information originating from the account.

She also seeks orders requiring Facebook to retrieve and return any data take from Ms O'Mahoney's account from the hacker, and that she be provided with all the activity on her account from January 1st last.

When the matter came before the High Court on Wednesday Ms O'Mahoney's counsel Jack Fitzgerald said the matter was become even more urgent.

As well as her concerns about her own personal data his client had discovered in recent days learned that her account had been linked to many entities, and groups that had nothing to do with her. 

He said his client did not want to delete her account as she wants to keep evidence of the wrong doing. However, due to the recent revelations regarding her account his client was required to amend her action, counsel said.

Counsel added that some direct contact between his client and Facebook regarding her concerns would be beneficial in resolving the matters.

In reply Mr Fanning said his client had been concentrating on dealing with the issues raised rather than preparing sworn documents for court proceedings.

Counsel said added that in recent days Facebook had sent out two letters to Mr O'Mahoney's solicitors, stating that once it was established the account was hacked, access was restored to Ms O'Mahoney within two business days.

An online meeting with Facebook's representatives with Ms O'Mahoney had been also taken place, counsel said. 

Ms justice Reynolds adjourned the matter to a date in early February, to allow the sides exchange documents. 

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