Washington DC’s Attorney General sued Mark Zuckerberg to hold Facebook co-founder personally liable for allowing political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to collect personal data from millions of Americans during the 2016 election.
In a lawsuit brought in the capital by Attorney General Karl Racine of the District of Columbia, Zuckerberg unwittingly convinces Cambridge Analytica to collect personal data from U.S. voters to aid Donald Trump’s campaign. Claims to have participated directly in the policy that allowed it.
“This unprecedented security breach has exposed the personal information of tens of millions of Americans, and Zuckerberg’s policies have enabled a multi-year effort to mislead users about the scope of Facebook’s illegal activities,” Racine said in a press release.
“This lawsuit is not only justified, it is necessary, and it sends a message that business leaders, including CEOs, must be held accountable for their actions.”
Meta declined to comment.
Racine previously sued Facebook’s parent company, Meta, under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. This law holds individuals responsible for violations if they were aware of the violations at the time.
The lawsuit against Zuckerberg is based on hundreds of thousands of documents collected as part of an ongoing lawsuit against Meta, including statements from employees and whistleblowers.
“Since filing a groundbreaking lawsuit against Facebook, our office has been fighting the company’s unique effort to thwart the lawsuit by refusing to create documents. We continued to follow Zuckerberg’s evidence,” said Racine.
Racine claims the Cambridge Analytica scandal is the result of Zuckerberg’s desire to open Facebook to third-party developers.
The lawsuit alleges that Zuckerberg was aware of the risk of a data breach associated with the strategy. According to the lawsuit, Zuckerberg noted in an email discussing the country leak that “there is an obvious risk on the part of advertisers.”
According to the lawsuit, Zuckerberg has served as Facebook’s board chairman since 2012 and controls about 60% of the voting stock.
Racine’s office said in a statement: “All the evidence related to the lawsuit shows that Zuckerberg is responsible for and has clear ability to control the day-to-day operations of Facebook.”
As The Guardian revealed in 2018, Cambridge Analytica, hired by Trump’s 2016 campaign team, had access to the personal data of 50 million Facebook users. The company claimed that the information could be used to identify different types of voters and influence their behavior.
In 2019, Facebook was fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating consumer privacy. Critics of the fine said it was too small a move to change the company’s behavior and argued that they should have sued Zuckerberg.