Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be added to a consumer protection lawsuit, according to District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who says that after interviews and a review of internal documents, it has been determined that the social media executive played a more prominent role in making key decisions than had been known.
Racine said in a statement investigators found a product shift in 2010 that gave third-party developers free access to user data that had been Zuckerberg's "brainchild," reports The New York Times.
"Under these circumstances, adding Mr. Zuckerberg to our lawsuit is unquestionably warranted, and should send a message that corporate leaders, including the C.E.O., will be held accountable for their actions," Racine said.
The lawsuit against Facebook was filed in December 2018 and alleges that Facebook had misled consumers about their privacy on the site when it let political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica have access to sensitive data from its more than 87 million users, which includes more than half of the residents of Washington, D.C.
Adding Zuckerberg to the lawsuit means he could be exposed to financial penalties, as Racine can seek up to $5,000 for any of the 300,000 residents in D.C. who were affected by the data privacy violation.
Facebook, insisting that it never misled its consumers, has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but Judge Fern Flanagan Saddler in 2019 rejected the company, which started a long period of discovery. This includes interviews with current and past workers, as well as Zuckerberg's congressional testimony.
The social media giant can seek a motion to dismiss Racine's amendment to add Zuckerberg to the lawsuit, which is in addition to antitrust cases filed by almost every state and by the Federal Trade Commission.
Facebook has fought back in the past against attempts to name Zuckerberg in regulatory actions, including in 2011 and 2019, when the FTC wanted to name him as a respondent in lawsuits concerning privacy. It also succeeded in keeping him off a $5 billion FTC settlement in 2019.
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