Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg could face penalties for failing to protect user’s data from political manipulation during the 2016 election.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine added Zukerberg to his lawsuit against Facebook that says the company lacked oversight and enforcement of its own policies.
In December 2018, Racine sued Facebook, claiming it violated the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act when it allowed user’s data to be abused for political gains in the 2016 election.
In what became known as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, millions of Facebook users’ data was compromised by a personality quiz and was misused by presidential campaigns to target voters.
“Based on the evidence we gathered in this case over the past two years and the District’s investigation more generally, it’s clear Mr. Zuckerberg knowingly and actively participated in each decision that led to Cambridge Analytica’s mass collection of Facebook user data, and Facebook’s misrepresentations to users about how secure their data was,” Racine said in a statement.
“The evidence further demonstrates that Mr. Zuckerberg also participated in misleading the public and government officials about Facebook’s role. Under these circumstances, Mr. Zuckerberg should be held liable for his involvement in the decisions that enabled the exposure of millions of users’ data — and that’s why we’re adding him to our complaint.”
The D.C. Office of the Attorney General said in a statement that suing leaders of a company isn’t unusual and as co-founder, chief executive officer, and a member of the board of directors with 60% of the voting shares, Zukerberg was “responsible for Facebook’s day-to-day operations.”
The attorney general is the first U.S. regulator to sue Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica incident.
“The reason that this scandal was able to occur at this level was because of the remarkable amount of influence that Facebook has. Facebook has grown from a simple website for ‘sharing’ information with your friends to one with unprecedented influence on the world, and with an unelected person at the helm of that company,” the office said in a statement.
For now, “a significant amount of detailed evidence” is redacted from the complaint because of the protective order.
“We hope the material will become unsealed at a later point, given the public’s right to know about Facebook’s and Mr. Zuckerberg’s actions,” Racine’s office said.