DC AG Seeks to Hold Zuckerberg Liable in Suit Stemming From Cambridge Analytica Scandal
14:57 GMT 20.10.2021 (Updated: 16:02 GMT 20.10.2021)
© AP Photo / Susan WalshIn this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Facebook's quasi-independent oversight board last week said the company was justified in suspending Trump because of his role in inciting deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021
© AP Photo / Susan Walsh
Cambridge Analytica was a British private political consulting firm that ended up at the epicentre of a scandal that dragged down Facebook. The company collected and used the data from 87 million Facebook subscribers to study their habits and work out how best to influence their voting preferences in the US' 2016 elections.
DC Attorney-General Karl Racine announced that he has included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as co-defendant in the case against the internet giant related to the data scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, which was first revealed in 2018.
Racine claims that his investigation, which has been going on for four years, revealed that Zuckerberg was personally responsible for Facebook's failure to protect users' data and decisions "related to Cambridge Analytica".
"Zuckerberg was personally aware of the risks that sharing consumer data with apps posed, but actively disregarded those risks because sharing data was otherwise beneficial and lucrative to Facebook’s business model and platform growth".
The Attorney-General revealed that Zuckerberg was behind Facebook's decision to allow third-party apps, such as the one used by Cambridge Analytica, to gain access to the social media users' data. Racine also learnt from internal documents and interviews with former Facebook employees that Zuckerberg “knowingly and actively” participated in making all decisions that eventually allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest profile data en masse.
Facebook rejected the claims calling them "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 social media giant added.
Cambridge Analytica found itself in hot water after a former employee, Christopher Wylie, revealed that the company harvested the data of 87 million Facebook users via an app called "This Is Your Digital Life" and Facebook's Open Graph platform - the vast majority of whom (70.6 million), were US citizens.
6 December 2019, 17:43 GMT
The harvested data included the user's public profile, page likes, birthday and current city, as well as a possible news feed, timeline, and messages. Cambridge Analytica used the data to create psychometric profiles of the users to offer ways to affect their voting preferences. US 2016 presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, as well as Brexit campaigners were among those who hired Cambridge Analytica around the time it acquired said data.
The revelation not only destroyed Cambridge Analytica, but also resulted in Facebook facing several lawsuits in the US and the UK over users' data being mishandled, one of which was filed by DC Attorney-General Karl Racine in 2018.