Washington, D.C.’s attorney general is suing Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the company’s misleading privacy policies and failure to protect user data, marking the latest in a string of efforts to hold the tech company accountable for allegedly manipulating users.
Karl Racine sued the tech CEO for violating privacy protection laws, accusing Facebook of profiting from the acquisition and monetization of data it collects from billions of users, according to the lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court on Monday. The attorney general argued the social media platform, with Zuckerberg directly participating, teamed up with developers and researchers to analyze user data to influence what users buy, and even who to vote for in the 2016 election.
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“This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary,” Racine said. “Misleading consumers, exposing their data, and violating the law come with consequences, not only for companies that breach that trust, but also corporate executives.”
The lawsuit stems directly from an investigation that emerged in 2018 when whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a Trump-aligned electioneering firm based in London, gained the personal data of more than 70 million Facebook users to influence the 2016 presidential election. Racine sued the company over the incident in 2018 but is now seeking to punish Zuckerberg personally.
The new lawsuit is based on hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that Racine’s staff did not have access to until it began its litigation in the Cambridge Analytica suit. These documents provide “extensive evidence that Zuckerberg was personally involved in failures that led to the Cambridge Analytica incident,” the attorney general said.
Racine is targeting Zuckerberg’s “unparalleled level of control over the operations of Facebook,” noting he “is personally involved in nearly every major decision the company makes,” according to the lawsuit. Through his position, the Meta CEO has tried to balance the line of convincing users its privacy practices are secure while selling as much of their data as possible without driving them away, the suit alleges.
Facebook achieved this by attempting to transform the internet into a “social-first” platform, convincing users to reveal personal information such as their religion, employment, and interests so that it can be monetized. The data, in turn, were obtained by Cambridge Analytica to influence users during the 2016 election, according to the lawsuit.
“The personal data of the more than 70 million U.S. Facebook users that Cambridge Analytica used to manipulate the election accounted for more than half the total votes during the 2016 presidential elections, in an election that was effectively decided by just a few hundred thousand people,” the lawsuit states.
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Despite public assurances from Facebook and Zuckerberg during this time that customer data were safe, the company was actively encouraging Cambridge Analytica and other companies to influence and manipulate consumer behavior, the suit alleges. Facebook also allegedly tried to hide these problems for as long as possible by misleading users, the press, and political leaders.
Zuckerberg is required to respond to the complaint within the next 21 days. Representatives for Facebook did not respond to a request for comment by the Washington Examiner.