Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg removed reference to Cambridge Analytica from speech six months before scandal came to light, report finds
Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg removed a reference to Cambridge Analytica, the British political consultancy at the heart of one of the company’s biggest data privacy scandals, in a speech six months before a report brought the consultancy’s activities to widespread attention, according to a deposition.
In a deposition by Zuckerberg to the US Securities and Exchange Commission he said he decided to remove the reference to Cambridge from the speech due to advice that said he should refrain from naming organisations, Reuters reported.
The actions of Meta executives in the matter are relevant to lawsuits in California and Delaware in which shareholders allege executives breached their fiduciary duties and consumers allege mishandling of their private information.
Facebook parent Meta in August 2022 settled another major class-action lawsuit around the scandal for an undisclosed sum, shortly before Zuckerberg and then-chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg were due to face six hours of questioning under oath by plaintiffs’ lawyers.
A separate lawsuit last year claimed Facebook, now Meta, paid $4.9 billion (£4bn) more than necessary to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a $5.1bn settlement over the Cambridge Analytica scandal in order to protect Zuckerberg from being named in the FTC’s complaint.
The July 2019 settlement included a $100m payment to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The February 2019 deposition was carried out as part of the SEC settlement. Reuters said it obtained a transcript of it this month through a public records request.
In the 2017 speech Zuckerberg addressed the issue of Russia possibly interfering with the US’ 2016 presidential elections by abusing Facebook’s services.
In a draft of the speech obtained by the SEC Zuckerberg proposed saying, “We are already looking into foreign actors including Russian intelligence, actors in other former Soviet states and organizations like Cambridge Analytica.”
The reference to Cambridge Analytica is omitted in the version of the speech Zuckerberg delivered.
Meta declined to comment other than to say its case with the SEC had been settled for more than three years.