One question that has long lingered among those implicated in Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal is: When did the company’s top executives learn of a British company building psychological profiles of American users, and why did they take so long to do something about it?
Zaman Qureshi, an American University student and a failure in technology politics, Submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the Securities and Exchange Commission and received sworn affidavit from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg as of 2019 document He reveals that in 2017, Zuckerberg had originally considered reporting in a letter that his company, then just called Facebook, was looking into details about Cambridge Analytica. It contradicts Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony and may add more fuel to the fire of ongoing lawsuits.
For those who need a refresher, in late 2010 Meta came under fire for sharing tens of millions of users’ personal information with British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The company allegedly used this data to create psychological profiles of American voters to aid the presidential campaign of Senator Ted Cruz during the 2016 election and later former President Donald Trump.
Zuckerberg’s filing of the SEC first mentions a series of articles from Motherboard that culminated in a bomb report Published January, 2017. When asked if this was the first time he had heard of Cambridge Analytica, the CEO replied:
“My guess is that I had heard of them before. And this was after seeing a few references to what they were claiming to do, I wanted to ask people I trusted for their rating.”
The document reveals a different timeline of events than what Zuckerberg used in testimony he gave before Congress in 2019. In response to questions from congressional representatives about when he learned something was odd at Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg replied:
“I’m not sure of the exact time, but it was probably around the time when it went public, I think it was around March of 2018. I could be wrong.”
the Questions asked by New York delegate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Further questioning Zuckerberg when any of his leadership team became aware of Cambridge Analytica, especially since there were reports from The Guardian It dates back to 2015. “I’m sure some people track it internally,” said the Meta CEO, and then revised his earlier statement saying “I think I was aware of Cambridge Analytica as a previous entity, I don’t know if I tracked how they were using Facebook specifically.”
The SEC filing also indicates that Zuckerberg originally intended to tell Facebook users that they were looking into Cambridge Analytica as early as 2017. In a 2017 speech Zuckerberg gave to Facebook users about allegations of Russian disinformation and election interference campaigns, the CEO said Facebook He said:
“We will continue our investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we find more, we will continue to work with the government. We are looking for foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet countries, as well as organizations such as campaigns, to advance our understanding of how Their use of our tools. These investigations will take some time, but we will continue our thorough review.”
However, according to the document, an earlier draft of the same speech said:
“We are already looking for foreign actors, including Russian intelligence agencies in other Soviet countries and organizations such as Cambridge Analytica.”
Zuckerberg claimed he knew nothing about Facebook’s political advertising team raising concerns about Cambridge Analytica prior to the 2015 Guardian article. However, Facebook did not ban the political consulting firm in the UK even after that report came out, which Zuckerberg called “a mistake.” He added that his company “didn’t connect the dots.” What points the company should have connected are unfortunately omitted from the document.
There are two ongoing lawsuits centering around Cambridge Analytica. One A lawsuit on behalf of the shareholders in Delaware for “alleged illegal business practices.”. “ Earlier this year, court documents showed that Meta had He agreed to settle Class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Facebook users alleging consumer fraud and negligence. Some reporters in the depths of the Cambridge Analytica scandal have suggested that it may have been an attempt to prevent Zuckerberg from being ousted.
In an emailed statement, a Meta spokesperson told Gizmodo that “this issue has been settled for over three years.” The company is also tied for 2019 an agreement Company with the Federal Trade Commission where the company She agreed to pay a $5 billion fine.
Qureshi is a political advisor to Facebook’s Real Oversight Council, an unaffiliated advocacy group formed as a contrast to the – and somewhat independent – Meta.oversight board.
Update 12/20/22 at 10 p.m. ET: This post has been updated to correct reference to the shareholder lawsuit against Meta.
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