The Cambridge Analytica leak allegedly exposed 87 million people’s data.
Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine has sued Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly failing to protect consumer data following the Cambridge Analytica data leak.
“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,” Racine said in a statement about the lawsuit released Monday. “This unprecedented security breach exposed tens of millions of Americans’ personal information, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s policies enabled a multi-year effort to mislead users about the extent of Facebook’s wrongful conduct.”
He added, “This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary, and sends a message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions.”
The lawsuit alleges that Zuckerberg was “responsible for” and “had the clear ability” to control Facebook operations and enabled Cambridge Analytica to use consumer data. The lawsuit alleges that third-party firms like Cambridge Analytica got data from 87 million Americans and half of District of Columbia residents.
Racine filed a lawsuit against Facebook in December 2018 for the data leak and is bringing this suit following evidence found during that litigation, according to the attorney general. In March, a judge ruled against an effort by Racine to add Zuckerberg as a defendant in the ongoing 2018 case.
Facebook has faced previous government scrutiny over the data leak to Cambridge Analytica. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion over the incident, and required the company to abide by new restrictions aimed at instituting greater accountability in decisions that affect user privacy.
The Cambridge Analytica leak, which several news outlets reported in 2018, concerned the London-based firm gaining access to user data in 2015 and using it to aid the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, declined to comment in response to a request from ABC News.
Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy and began insolvency proceedings in the U.S. not long after the scandal broke.
The lawsuit filed by Racine takes issue with what it appears to consider a central business objective of Facebook. The suit accuses the company of aiming “to convince people to reveal the most granular details of who they are to Facebook — their religions, their work histories, their likes — so that it can be monetized, and Zuckerberg and his company can continue to grow even wealthier.”
On multiple occasions, the lawsuit notes that the company pursued its policies “at Zuckerberg’s direction.”
The announcement on Monday follows a suit filed by Racine in January against another tech giant, Google, over privacy issues. In that lawsuit, Racine alleged that Google misled users to get access to data on their locations. Three attorneys general, representing Texas, Indiana and Washington, joined Racine in filing separate lawsuits with similar allegations.