Mark Zuckerberg faces allegations that he developed a “malicious and fraudulent scheme” to exploit vast amounts of private data to earn Facebook billions and force rivals out of business.
A company suing Facebook in a California court claims the social network’s chief executive “weaponised” the ability to access data from any user’s network of friends – the feature at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
A legal motion filed last week in the superior court of San Mateo draws upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives including Mark Zuckerberg. He is named individually in the case and, it is claimed, had personal oversight of the scheme.
…The developer alleges the correspondence shows Facebook paid lip service to privacy concerns in public but behind the scenes exploited its users’ private information.
It claims internal emails and messages reveal a cynical and abusive system set up to exploit access to users’ private information, alongside a raft of anti-competitive behaviours.
The lawsuit also claims Zuckerberg misled the public and Congress about Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal by portraying it as a victim of a third party that had abused its rules for collecting and sharing data.
“The evidence uncovered by plaintiff demonstrates that the Cambridge Analytica scandal was not the result of mere negligence on Facebook’s part but was rather the direct consequence of the malicious and fraudulent scheme Zuckerberg designed in 2012 to cover up his failure to anticipate the world’s transition to smartphones,” legal documents said.
The lawsuit claims to have uncovered fresh evidence concerning how Facebook made decisions about users’ privacy. It sets out allegations that, in 2012, Facebook’s advertising business, which focused on desktop ads, was devastated by a rapid and unexpected shift to smartphones.
Zuckerberg responded by forcing developers to buy expensive ads on the new, underused mobile service or risk having their access to data at the core of their business cut off, the court case alleges.
“Zuckerberg weaponised the data of one-third of the planet’s population in order to cover up his failure to transition Facebook’s business from desktop computers to mobile ads before the market became aware that Facebook’s financial projections in its 2012 IPO filings were false,” one court filing said.
…Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook employee turned whistleblower who has testified to the UK parliament about its business practices, said the allegations were a “bombshell”. He claimed to MPs Facebook’s senior executives were aware of abuses of friends’ data back in 2011-12 and he was warned not to look into the issue.
“They felt that it was better not to know. I found that utterly horrifying,” he said. “If true, these allegations show a huge betrayal of users, partners and regulators. They would also show Facebook using its monopoly power to kill competition and putting profits over protecting its users.”