Zuckerberg Knew of Cambridge Analytica Earlier

Mark Zuckerberg waves to the camera on a large screen.

Mark Zuckerberg, seen here during an interview at the New York Times 2022 DealBook Summit, has avoided testifying in court cases related to the massive Cambridge Analytica scandal.
photo: Thomas Robinson (Getty Images)

A question that has long lingered among those involved in Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal is when did the company’s top executives know that the UK company was psychologically profiling US users, and why did it take them so long to do something about it?

Zamaan Qureshi, an American university student and technology policy wonk, filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act with the Securities and Exchange Commission and, as of 2019, received a deposition from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg document reveals that back in 2017, Zuckerberg originally considered reporting in a speech that his company, then called Facebook, was working on details about Cambridge Analytica. It contradicts testimony Zuckerberg made before Congress and could further fuel the fire of pending court cases.

For those who need a refresher, Meta came under fire in the late 2010s for sharing tens of millions of users’ personal information with British policy consultancy Cambridge Analytica. The company allegedly used this data to create psychological profiles of US voters to support the presidential campaign of Senator Ted Cruz during the 2016 election and later former President Donald Trump.

Zuckerberg’s filing with the SEC first mentions a series of articles from Motherboard, culminating in one bomb report published in January 2017. When asked if this was the first time he heard about Cambridge Analytica, the CEO replied:

“My guess is that I’ve heard of them before. And after seeing a few mentions of their claims, I wanted to ask people I trust what they think.”

The document reveals a different timeline of events than what Zuckerberg used in his testimony before Congress in 2019. In response to questions from congressional officials about when he knew something was odd about Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg replied:

“I’m not sure when exactly, but it was probably around the time it was released, I think it was around March 2018. I could be wrong.”

That Questions from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez Zuckerberg further grilled when Cambridge Analytica became aware of any of his executive team, especially as there were reports from The Guardian from 2015. Meta’s CEO said, “I’m sure some people have been following it internally,” then revised his earlier statement and said, “I think I was previously aware of Cambridge Analytica as an entity, I just don’t know whether I tracked how they specifically used Facebook.”

The SEC filing also notes that Zuckerberg originally intended to tell Facebook users that they were investigating Cambridge Analytica back in 2017. In a speech Zuckerberg gave to Facebook users in 2017 over allegations of Russian misinformation and election meddling campaigns, the Facebook CEO said said:

“We will continue our investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government. We examine foreign actors, including other Russian groups and other ex-Soviet states, as well as organizations like the Campaigns, to broaden our understanding of how they used our tools. These investigations will take time, but we will continue our thorough review.”

According to the document, however, an earlier draft of the same speech stated:

“We are already looking for foreign actors, including Russian intelligence actors in other Soviet states and organizations like Cambridge Analytica.”

Image for the article titled Documents show Zuckerberg once considered announcing they were investigating Cambridge Analytica

screenshot: The real Facebook oversight board

Zuckerberg claimed he was unaware that Facebook’s political advertising team raised concerns about Cambridge Analytica prior to The Guardian’s 2015 article. However, Facebook didn’t ban the British policy consultancy after this report came out, which Zuckerberg called “a mistake,” adding his company “didn’t get the dots together.” Unfortunately, which dots the company should have connected was blacked out from the document.

There are two ongoing lawsuits surrounding Cambridge Analytica. On Complaint on behalf of shareholders in Delaware for alleged “illegal business practices”..” Earlier this year, court documents showed that Meta had done so have agreed to arrange themselves the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Facebook users alleging consumer fraud and neglect. Some reporters deeply implicated in the Cambridge Analytica scandal noted that it may have been an attempt to thwart Zuckerberg’s impeachment.

In an email statement, a Meta spokesperson told Gizmodo, “This has been a settled case for over three years.” The company also linked to a 2019 approval the company with the Federal Trade Commission where the company agreed to pay a $5 billion penalty.

Qureshi is a policy advisor for The Real Facebook Oversight Board, an independent advocacy group formed as a kind of antithesis to Meta’s own – slightly more independent.supervisory board.

Update 12/20/22 at 10pm ET: This post has been updated to correct the reference to the shareholder lawsuit against Meta.

https://gizmodo.com/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-meta-cambridge-analytica-1849916617 Zuckerberg Knew of Cambridge Analytica Earlier

Zack Zwiezen

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