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The attorney general of the District of Columbia has filed a lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg, aiming to hold the Facebook co-founder personally liable for allowing the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to gather the personal data of millions of Americans during the 2016 election season.
The lawsuit, filed in the capital by Attorney General Karl Racine of the District of Columbia, claims that Zuckerberg was actively involved in rules that allowed Cambridge Analytica to collect personal data on US voters without their consent in order to aid Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
In a news release, Racine stated, “This extraordinary security breach exposed tens of millions of Americans’ personal information, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s policies enabled a multi-year attempt to deceive consumers about the magnitude of Facebook’s illegal conduct.”
“This case is not only justified, but also vital, since it sends a message that corporate leaders, especially CEOs, will be held accountable.”
Meta remained silent about the subject.
Racine has already sued Facebook’s parent corporation, Meta, under the Consumer Protection Procedures Act of the District of Columbia. Individuals are held liable for infractions if they were aware of them at the time.
The lawsuit against Zuckerberg is based on tens of thousands of documents, including depositions from employees and whistleblowers, gathered as part of the company’s protracted legal battle with Meta.
“Since initiating our groundbreaking action against Facebook, my office has fought tooth and nail against the company’s typical efforts to withhold documents and impede our lawsuit. “We’re sticking with it and have followed the facts all the way to Mr. Zuckerberg,” Racine added.
The Cambridge Analytica issue, according to Racine, was caused by Zuckerberg’s eagerness to open up Facebook to third-party developers.
According to the lawsuit, Zuckerberg was aware of the potential for data leaks as a result of the plan. According to the lawsuit, Zuckerberg wrote in an email on state leaks that “there is clear risk on the advertising side.”
According to the lawsuit, Zuckerberg has been the chairman of Facebook’s board of directors since 2012 and controls around 60% of the voting shares.
“Evidence proved Mr. Zuckerberg was responsible for and had the clear authority to govern Facebook’s day-to-day operations at all periods relevant to the complaint,” Racine’s office said in a statement.
According to the Guardian, Cambridge Analytica, a firm hired by Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, had access to the personal information of 50 million Facebook users. The data, according to the business, might be used to identify different sorts of voters and influence their voting decisions.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) penalized Facebook a record $5 billion in 2019 for violating consumers’ privacy. Critics of the fine said it did not go far enough to modify the company’s behavior, and that Zuckerberg should have been sued.
Suing company leaders in their personal capacity can be “tough,” according to Carl Tobias, Williams chair in law at the University of Richmond, and Racine failed in an attempt to sue Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year when the claim was submitted too late. “While this filing appears to be innovative, it may not be more effective than earlier attempts to sue CEOs and company leaders on a personal basis,” Tobias added.