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DC Attorney General sues Zuckerberg for role in Cambridge Analytica breach

Gelo Gonzales
DC Attorney General sues Zuckerberg for role in Cambridge Analytica breach

ZUCKERBERG. Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company's use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 11, 2018

Leah Millis/Reuters

Washington DC's Attorney General says evidence shows 'Zuckerberg was responsible for and had the clear ability to control Facebook’s day-to-day operations' leading to Cambridge Analytica breach

MANILA, Philippines – Washington DC’s Attorney General Karl Racine on Monday, May 23, sued Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for “directly participating in decision-making that allowed the Cambridge Analytica data breach,” as stated in an online press release

The lawsuit compiles evidence from investigations to allege Zuckerberg’s role in contributing to “Facebook’s lax oversight of user data and implementation of misleading privacy agreements” that led to British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s collection and misuse of the data of 87 million Facebook users, many Americans among those – data that may have been used in influencing elections. 

Before the 2016 presidential elections in the US, a third-party app under the guise of being a personality quiz collected user data without knowledge or consent, which it then sold to Cambridge Analytica. The firm then used that data to target voters according to personality traits.

Racine said, “The evidence shows Mr. Zuckerberg was personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect the privacy and data of its users leading directly to the Cambridge Analytica incident. This unprecedented security breach exposed tens of millions of Americans’ personal information, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s policies enabled a multi-year effort to mislead users about the extent of Facebook’s wrongful conduct. This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary, and sends a message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions.”

Racine also noted that his office has “fought tooth and nail” against Meta’s “characteristic efforts to resist producing documents and otherwise thwart our suit.” 

The new lawsuit specifically takes aim at Zuckerberg, and will follow an ongoing lawsuit filed in December 2018 against Facebook, which has since produced “thousands of pages of documents,” and statements from Facebook directors, employees, whistleblowers, and Zuckerberg’s own public statements, including sworn testimony before the US Senate and other law enforcement agencies. 

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges the evidence confirms Zuckerberg’s direct oversight of major decisions leading to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, other third parties collecting and misusing user data, and Facebook’s misrepresentation to users as to the security of the personal information they hand over. 

The OAG cited DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) in suing Zuckerberg, saying that under the CPPA – which “prohibits unfair and deceptive trade practices” – individuals are liable for a company’s actions if these individuals “knew about, controlled, or failed to stop the company’s actions.”

“Now that Facebook has grown larger than any country on earth, with revenues exceeding the economies of many nations, Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision-making has global implications – including impacting the data and privacy of hundreds of thousands of users in the District,” the OAG said. 

“At all times relevant to the lawsuit, evidence showed Mr. Zuckerberg was responsible for and had the clear ability to control Facebook’s day-to-day operations.”

Aside from Meta and Facebook, the OAG had also previously filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon and Google for deceiving users on the usage of location data. 

The complaint against Zuckerberg can be found here. – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.