DC AG Targets Zuckerberg Over Facebook Misusing User Data

Mark Zuckerberg, META CEO, holds his hands up as he speaks to an audience.

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine confesses that if you can’t snare enough slimy, data-profiting fish with one net, then you should just cast more nets.

DC’s AG announced Monday he was laying a new lawsuit at the feet of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying that Facebook took users for a ride over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the political consulting firm obtained data from 87 million Americans and used it to build targeted voter profiles before the 2016 election.

In his complaintRacine’s office argues that Facebook grew wealthy off of “acquiring and monetizing the data of those billions of people leading their lives in Facebook’s digital ecosystem.” The suit further alleges Zuckerberg directed the company to encourage and team up with outside groups that collected Facebook user data to manipulate users’ mood, what they buy, and how they vote, all to benefit Zuckerberg’s company. Racine further said that the data of 70 million users included “over half” of DC residents.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Racine had previously sued Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal back in 2018, but his efforts to later add Zuckerberg directly to the lawsuit was knocked down by a judge earlier this year. The Federal Trade Commission has previously fined Facebook $ 5 billion in 2019. The FTC’s settlement also required the company to restructure how it thought about user privacy.

On Monday, Meta announced that it will start giving researchers more access to analyze data on how ads target users based on their user profiles. The New York Times reported the company has previously restricted deep outside analysis, citing privacy concerns. This was despite pressure from both elected officials, researchersand scientists to get the company to reveal more about how its algorithms target users and impact their emotional state.

In a releaseMeta VP of Business Integrity Jeff King said the data would be available to vetted researchers at the end of this month on its Facebook Open Research and Transparency platform. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone tweeted that a summary of this data will be posted at the end of July for public view.

“By making advertiser targeting criteria available for analysis and reporting on ads run about social issues, elections, and politics, we hope to help people better understand the practices used to reach potential voters on our technologies,” King wrote in his release.

Facebook is facing Mariana Trench-levels of pressure from people in both the public and private arenas. The leaked Facebook Papers (which Gizmodo has been digging into extensively over the past several weeks) have shown just how concerned employees were that users were being regularly exposed to problematic content. Facebook is also being sued by several states’ attorneys general over alleged anticompetitive practices.

Facebook isn’t the only tech company Racine is targeting. Earlier this year, Racine was joined by multiple other states in filing a suit against Google for its relentless collection of user data through the use of its apps.

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