An attorney general added Mark Zuckerberg to a lawsuit against Facebook. It means Zuckerberg could personally be on the hook for up to $1.7 billion.

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An attorney general added Mark Zuckerberg to a lawsuit against Facebook. It means Zuckerberg could personally be on the hook for up to $1.7 billion.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images
  • A district attorney general has added Mark Zuckerberg to a Facebook privacy lawsuit.
  • The lawsuit was filed in 2018 on behalf of people affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The attorney general for the District of Columbia, Karl Racine, has added Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a respondent to a privacy lawsuit against the company.

Racine first told The New York Times he planned to file an amendment adding Zuckerberg to an ongoing case first filed against Facebook in 2018 on behalf of DC residents whose data was compromised during the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook had tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but a judge denied the request in January 2019, leading to a discovery period.

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"Based on the evidence we gathered in this case over the past two years and the District's investigation more generally, it's clear Mr. Zuckerberg knowingly and actively participated in each decision that led to Cambridge Analytica's mass collection of Facebook user data, and Facebook's misrepresentations to users about how secure their data was," Racine told Insider in a statement.

"The evidence further demonstrates that Mr. Zuckerberg also participated in misleading the public and government officials about Facebook's role. Under these circumstances, Mr. Zuckerberg should be held liable for his involvement in the decisions that enabled the exposure of millions of users' data - and that's why we're adding him to our complaint," he added.

Racine's office shared a copy of the amended complaint with Insider.

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If Zuckerberg is successfully added to the complaint then he could be subject to financial penalties. Facebook could appeal the change.

Racine's office told Insider it can seek up to $5,000 for every resident who was affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In his original 2018 filing Racine said that more than 340,000 Washington DC residents were affected, although The Times reported that 300,000 residents were affected.

This could mean a maximum penalty of up to $1.7 billion. Racine's office told Insider that Zuckerberg and Facebook would be subject to the same violations if found guilty, meaning Zuckerberg would be personally liable for the same amount of money as Facebook.

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Facebook can try to get Racine's amendment dismissed, The Times reported. Facebook did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider about whether it would seek to dismiss.

Facebook reached a $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in July 2019 over its failure to protect user privacy in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Washington Post reported in July 2019 that the FTC had considered a much higher fine, as well as the possibility of holding Zuckerberg personally responsible.

Facebook shareholders filed a lawsuit against the company in September this year saying it overpaid the Federal Trade Commission by nearly $5 billion as part of a "quid pro quo" to protect Zuckerberg.

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