Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal

I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

Fast forward to this week, and in announcing he's suing Zuckerberg, Racine on Monday said: "This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary, and sends a message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions."

Proving that argument may be easier said than done, however: this latest complaint hinges on the AG's ability to connect Zuckerberg's personal actions to the Cambridge Analytica kerfuffle.

In his 2018 lawsuit, which is still ongoing, Racine accused Facebook of pretty much the same things he's accusing Zuckerberg of now, namely breaking DC's Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). Toward the end of last year, the AG tried to add Zuckerberg as a defendant to that case, and this was rejected by a judge who in March said the timing "smacks of almost bad faith."

Racine, however, remains convinced he can tie Zuck to the data slurping, and has filed suit specifically against the CEO and cofounder. "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," the AG claimed.

The CPPA states that individuals can be held liable for a company's actions if they're aware of, in control of, or failed to stop an illegal undertaking. The latest lawsuit reaches all the way back to 2007, the year Facebook opened its platform to advertisers, for evidence for that claim, arguing Facebook was aware how its website could be misused and yet ignored the warnings. 

The suit asks for a jury trial against Zuckerberg, with a guilty verdict enjoining him from violating the CPPA again, as well as paying restitution of $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each additional charge (to be proven at trial). 

Facebook has lost two previous legal cases regarding its role in the Cambridge Analytica blow-up, with the UK fining the social media giant $630,000 and the US Federal Trade Commission imposing a $5 billion penalty for the same. ®

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