The District of Columbia on Monday sued Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg, seeking to hold him personally responsible for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a breach of the personal data privacy of millions of Facebook users that has become a scandal of major business and politics.
DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed a civil suit against Zuckerberg in DC Superior Court. The lawsuit argues that Zuckerberg directly participated in important company decisions and was aware of the potential dangers of sharing user data, as happened in the case involving data mining firm Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica has collected information on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission. Their data was allegedly used to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.
Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook and led its board of directors since 2012, controls more than 50% of Facebook’s voting shares and “maintains an unparalleled level of control over Facebook’s operations as it has become the most largest social media company in the world”. “, states the lawsuit. The social media giant has nearly 3 billion users worldwide. Meta has a market value of over $500 billion (approximately Rs. 38,77,180 crore).
Racine is seeking damages and penalties from Zuckerberg, which may be determined in a trial.
Meta Platforms spokesman Andy Stone declined to comment. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is based in Menlo Park, California.
Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple have been the targets of lawsuits in recent years by federal regulators and attorneys general on both sides accusing the tech giants of market dominance and abuse. But Racine’s lawsuit resulted in the rare action of a regulator specifically targeting a Big Tech CEO.
Zuckerberg was directly involved in the decision-making that enabled the massive data breach, while Facebook misled users with privacy claims, according to the lawsuit.
Racine tried last year to add Zuckerberg as a defendant in his ongoing lawsuit against Facebook over Cambridge Analytica from 2018. But a DC Superior Court judge thwarted that attempt in March, saying that Racine had waited too long to add it. “What value does it add to name it? There is no more relief for consumers in the District of Columbia,” Judge Maurice Ross said.
Now, Racine claims that thousands of documents he has since had access to in the case establish Zuckerberg’s direct involvement in decision-making on Cambridge Analytica, and he is therefore suing Zuckerberg directly.
A year ago, Racine took Amazon to court, accusing the online sales giant of anti-competitive practices in the treatment of sellers on its platform. The practices have driven up prices for consumers and stifled innovation and choice in the online retail market, he alleged. Amazon denied the allegations.
This lawsuit was dismissed by the court and Racine requested that it be reconsidered.