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Mark Zuckerberg was sued by the attorney general for the District of Columbia Monday – a rare move against a prominent CEO meant to hold him personally liable for the Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, which exposed millions of Facebook users’ personal data and became a major corporate and political scandal.
Karl Racine, the D.C. attorney general, filed the civil lawsuit against Zuckerberg on Monday in D.C. Superior Court.
The lawsuit maintains that Zuckerberg directly participated in important company decisions and was aware of the potential dangers of sharing users’ data, such as occurred in the case involving data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica gathered details on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.
Their data is alleged to have been used to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.
Karl Racine (left), the attorney general of Washington D.C., on Monday sued Mark Zuckerberg (right) personally
‘We’re suing Mark Zuckerberg for his role in Facebook’s misleading privacy practices and failure to protect millions of users’ data,’ Racine tweeted.
‘Our investigation shows extensive evidence that Zuckerberg was personally involved in failures that led to the Cambridge Analytica incident.
‘This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary.
‘Misleading consumers, exposing their data, and violating the law come with consequences, not only for companies that breach that trust, but also corporate executives.’
Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook and has headed its board since 2012, controls more than 50 percent of Facebook’s voting shares and ‘maintains an unparalleled level of control over the operations of Facebook as it has grown into the largest social media company in the world,’ the lawsuit says.
The social network giant has nearly three billion users worldwide.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has a market value of over $500 billion.
Racine is seeking damages and penalties from Zuckerberg as may be determined in a trial.
Meta Platforms spokesman Andy Stone declined to comment.
Zuckerberg is accused of knowing that Cambridge Analytica’s work threatened users’ privacy, but pressing ahead regardless
Racine is pictured in December, announcing charges against those involved in the January 6 insurrection. He has been targeting many tech companies over surveillance
Meta, the parent of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is based in Menlo Park, California.
Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple have been targeted in legal actions in recent years by federal regulators and state attorneys general of both parties accusing the tech behemoths of market dominance and abuse.
But Racine’s suit brought the rare action of a regulator specifically aiming at a Big Tech CEO.
Zuckerberg directly participated in decision-making that allowed the massive data breach, while Facebook misled users with claims of privacy protection, the suit alleges.
Racine tried last year to add Zuckerberg as a defendant in his ongoing suit against Facebook over Cambridge Analytica from 2018.
But a D.C. Superior Court judge thwarted that attempt in March, saying that Racine had waited too long to add him.
‘What value does it add to name him? There’s no more relief for the consumers of the District’ of Columbia,’ Judge Maurice Ross said.
Facebook’s corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California are pictured. The company has not commented on the D.C. attorney general’s suit
Now, Racine is asserting that thousands of documents he has since gained access to in the case establish Zuckerberg’s direct participation in decision-making on Cambridge Analytica, and he is therefore suing Zuckerberg directly.
A year ago, Racine sued Amazon, accusing the online retail giant of anticompetitive practices in its treatment of sellers on its platform.
The practices have raised prices for consumers and stifled innovation and choice in the online retail market, he alleged.
Amazon rejected the allegations.
That suit was dismissed by the court and Racine has asked for it to be reconsidered.