Mark Zuckerberg sued over Cambridge Analytica data breach in Washington

Court says evidence shows Meta head was personally involved in breach

Meta Platforms chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. Reuters
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The District of Columbia said on Monday that it has sued Mark Zuckerberg for his reported role in the data breach that allowed political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to target Facebook users during the 2016 presidential election.

A “sweeping investigation” revealed that Mr Zuckerberg, head of Meta Platforms, contributed to lax oversight of user data and the creation of misleading privacy agreements that resulted in Cambridge Analytica and other third parties gaining access to the personal information of 87 million people, DC Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement.

Cambridge Analytica was hired by then-candidate Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Mr Racine called it “the largest consumer privacy scandal in the nation’s history”.

The lawsuit mirrors an earlier suit Mr Racine filed against Facebook in 2018, though the judge overseeing that case rejected as “almost bad faith” the Democratic attorney general’s attempt to name Mr Zuckerberg in the case earlier this year.

“You want to change this from a case about Facebook to a case about Mr Zuckerberg,” DC Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross said at a March hearing. “What value does it add to name him? There’s no more relief for the consumers of the District.”

Mr Racine on Monday said it was important for his office to go after Mr Zuckerberg.

“We continue to persist and have followed the evidence right to Mr Zuckerberg,” Mr Racine said in the statement.

“The evidence shows Mr Zuckerberg was personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect the privacy and data of its users leading directly to the Cambridge Analytica incident.”

Meta declined to comment.

The company has previously derided Mr Racine’s claims as “little more than a broadside against Facebook’s business model”.

Cambridge Analytica worked in support of the 2016 campaigns of Mr Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, all Republicans. It was founded in 2013 by former Renaissance Technologies co-chief executive Robert Mercer, a major supporter of Mr Trump.

Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s former chief strategist, was one of the campaign’s liaisons to Cambridge Analytica, which collapsed after revelations about its harvesting and use of personal data.

Updated: May 23, 2022, 4:40 PM