District of Columbia sues Mark Zuckerberg over privacy issues related to Cambridge Analytica

Photo (c) David Tran - Getty Images

Attorney General Carl Racine says Zuckerberg played a large role in the incident

Four years after details of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light, Washington, D.C. Attorney General Carl Racine has sued Facebook – now Meta – CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his alleged role. 

Racine’s complaint accuses Zuckerberg of directly participating in decision-making that allowed the British data company to make unauthorized use of the company’s data for political purposes. Meta has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In 2018, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political marketing firm, had accessed data on Facebook users to target 2016 political ads on behalf of the campaign to remove the U.K. from the European Union and on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Facebook paid a $645,000 fine in connection with the breach in 2019.

In his complaint, Racine points to evidence that he says implicates Zuckerberg in Facebook’s “lax oversight of user data and implementation of misleading privacy agreements.” The result, he contends, was that third parties like Cambridge Analytica were able to obtain personal data on 87 million Americans, including over half of the residents of the District of Columbia.

“Since filing our landmark lawsuit against Facebook, my office has fought tooth and nail against the company's characteristic efforts to resist producing documents and otherwise thwart our suit. We continue to persist and have followed the evidence right to Mr. Zuckerberg,” Racine said. 

Unauthorized access

Facebook has always maintained that Cambridge Analytica made use of information that it was not entitled to receive. Racine said the evidence shows that Zuckerberg was personally involved in the lapses that led to the breach. 

“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,” Racine said. “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.”

Racine attempted to name Zuckerberg as a defendant in a previous lawsuit against Facebook, but the judge disallowed it. That lawsuit, which has not yet been resolved, claims that Facebook violated the District of Columbia’s consumer protection law by misleading users and failing to protect their data in the months before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

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