District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine is adding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to a lawsuit over the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal.
Racine wrote on Twitter this morning, saying his investigation had revealed that Zuckerberg was personally involved in decisions related to Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s failure to protect user data.
Racine says he added Zuckerberg after the office reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of documents produced in litigation and completed a wide range of depositions including former employees and whistleblowers.
He tweeted: “He did not indicate which details had led to the decision or how deeply Zuckerberg was allegedly involved in the incident. We’ve taken our obligation to investigate wrongdoing very seriously — and Facebook should take its responsibility to protect users just as seriously.”
Facebook has disputed the basis of the lawsuit. A Facebook spokesperson said: “These allegations are as meritless today as they were more than three years ago, when the District filed its complaint. We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously and focus on the facts.”
The 2018 lawsuit accuses Facebook (and now Zuckerberg) of misrepresenting its policies around third-party data access and compromising user privacy with lax protections. The attorney general’s office alleges that Facebook violated the Consumer Protection Procedures Act and seeks civil damages for the offense. A judge allowed the case to proceed despite Facebook’s efforts to halt it in 2019.
The DC complaint focuses primarily on Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm that worked with a researcher using Facebook’s developer platform to access over 70 million US users’ profile information with the goal of targeting political advertisements. It alleges that Facebook knew the system was being abused to harvest data from nonconsenting users but failed to conduct audits, limit the company’s access, or reveal the improper access publicly until years after the fact. The complaint claims Facebook also failed to take action when other companies violated its rules.