Zuckerberg Added as Defendant to Washington DC AG’s Cambridge Analytica Privacy Suit

According to a tweet by Karl Racine, District of Columbia Attorney General, Facebook Inc.’s top executive will be named in a lawsuit against the company over consumer privacy violations in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Racine explains that Wednesday’s announcement comes in response to revelations that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was “personally involved in decisions related to Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s failure to protect user data.”

According to The New York Times, the 2018-filed complaint arose from allegations that the company misled users about privacy on the platform by allowing Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, to come into the possession of sensitive data from more than 87 million users. The suit, filed on behalf of the District’s residents, contends that Facebook violated D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) by failing to protect personal information as promised.

The New York Times article by Cecilia Kang published on Wednesday explains that in June 2019 a District of Columbia Superior Court judge refused to dismiss the suit, thereby beginning a long discovery period. Thus far, the factual inquiry has reportedly included interviews with current and former employees and reviews of Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony and interviews with law enforcement.

The news comes at a time when Facebook is facing several legal battles, including the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) high-profile suit against it for monopolization of the personal social networking services market. Over the summer, a federal judge in D.C. tossed the case, citing numerous pleading flaws, including failure to allege monopoly power. Most recently, Facebook filed a second motion to dismiss after the FTC amended its pleading by decision of a split commission.

The New York Times reported the FTC’s case and other proceedings against Facebook have not directly taken on the role played by Zuckerberg, who reportedly controls more than half of the company’s voting shares. However, Racine’s case is different. Kang reported that the suit could result in financial penalties for the CEO, noting that the plaintiff could “seek up to $5,000 for any of the district’s 300,000 residents who may have been affected by the Cambridge Analytica data privacy violation.”

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP is defending Facebook in the matter.