(PresidentialInsider.com)- Facebook’s CEO is going to be added to a consumer protection lawsuit being put forth by the attorney general of the District of Columbia.
In a statement, the attorney general, Karl Racine, said Mark Zuckerberg would be added to the lawsuit after a review of the company’s internal documents and interviews determined the CEO played a larger role in key decisions at the company than had been previously known.
The statement said investigators discovered a shift at Facebook back in 2010 that gave developers of third-party applications access to user data for free — and it was Zuckerberg’s “brainchild,” a New York Times report said.
In the statement, Racine said:
“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.”
The lawsuit was originally filed back in December of 2018 against Facebook. It alleges the social media giant misled consumers about the levels of privacy they “enjoyed” on the site. The company allowed Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm, gain access to the sensitive data of more than 87 million users, including more than 50% of the residents in Washington, D.C.
Adding Zuckerberg to this lawsuit isn’t just procedural. It opens up the possibility that he could face direct financial penalties. Racine has the ability to seek a $5,000 fine for any of the 300,000 D.C. residents who were affected by this violation of their privacy. That’s a potential personal fine of $1.5 billion.
Facebook has continued to insist throughout the entire process that it never, at any point in time, misled the users on its site. It has repeatedly asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit because of this.
In 2019, Judge Fern Flanagan Saddler rejected the dismissal request. Because of that, a very long discovery period began that year and is still continuing.
During this process, interviews with past and current employees of Facebook were conducted. The case also includes congressional testimony that Zuckerberg has given in recent years.
Even though Facebook wasn’t successful in dismissing the lawsuit against the company, they can still file a motion that would look to dismiss the amendment Racine made to the suit that added Zuckerberg himself as a defendant.
Facebook is also facing many antitrust cases that have been filed by the Federal Trade Commission and in many states throughout America.
In the past, Facebook has fought against any attempt that would specifically name Zuckerberg in a regulatory action. The FTC had tried to name the CEO as a respondent in their lawsuits over privacy concerns in both 2011 and 2019.
While Facebook agreed to a $5 billion settlement with the FTC in 2019 as well, the social media giant was able to keep Zuckerberg out of the lawsuit personally.
Zuckerberg himself obviously has significant reasons for wanting to be left out of the lawsuits, as they could sink him financially if they were successful.