Facebook sued. Why? Follow the money.

10 mins read

Facebook sued. Why? Follow the money.

Facebook sued for selling its users’ personal data for political manipulation.

Facebook is accused of stalling news about how it mis-used data while four Facebook directors – Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Marc Andreesen and Peter Thiel sold billions of their Facebook holdings before the stock price slumped. Retirees and regular Facebook shareholders faced billions in losses when news of the scandal became public.

Zuckerberg sold 85 million shares of Facebook stock, amounting to $9.6 billion during that time—approximately 20% of his Facebook holdings. Sandberg sold 18 million shares of their Facebook holdings respectively during the time period.” – Tech Policy Press

Facebook is accused of overpaying federal regulators $4.9 billion of shareholder money to avoid Mark Zuckerberg (CEO) and Sheryl Sandberg (COO) from being publicly deposed about their role in the scheme.

“The complaint alleges that Zuckerberg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, the then-VP of Platform Partnerships at the company, violated their fiduciary duty to Facebook’s shareholders. The plaintiffs allege that board members possessed non-public information that allowed them to make insider decisions… “Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and Facebook investors collectively lost more than $100 billion in market share since employee-turned whistleblower Frances Haugen first leaked internal documents to the Wall Street Journal. “Facebook said it was looking out for our children and weeding out online trolls, but in reality was creating misery and divisiveness for profit. We are not people to Mark Zuckerberg, we are the product and we are being used against each other out of greed” – Business Insider

Follow the money

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Harvesting Facebook users’ personal data

“Cambridge Analytica sought to harvest the Facebook data of tens of millions of Americans in summer 2014, the company received help from at least one employee at Palantir Technologies, a top Silicon Valley contractor to American spy agencies and the Pentagon. It was a Palantir employee in London, working closely with the data scientists building Cambridge’s psychological profiling technology, who suggested the scientists create their own app — a mobile-phone-based personality quiz — to gain access to Facebook users’ friend networks, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.” – NY Times

Steve Bannon

“Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist said that he “did not remember” being part of any scheme to buy data that came from Facebook and divert it to use for election propaganda. Bannon is a former vice-president and board member of the political consultancy, which he agreed he “put together”. He claimed that neither he nor Cambridge Analytica had anything to do with dirty tricks in the use of information harvested from Facebook to make computer models to sway elections. He tried to distance himself from the Cambridge Analytica scandal claiming: “I didn’t even know anything about the Facebook mining. And he denied that his former benefactor, US hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who co-owns Cambridge Analytica, had any financial links to SCL. Mercer was also a major donor to Trump’s election campaign.

Used for political propaganda

“… the personal data of about 50 million Americans had been harvested and improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. The international data analytics operation, which worked with Trump’s election team, scraped millions of Facebook profiles of US voters and information about their social media friends, then used them for political propaganda. It is one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and the data gleaned was used to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. The tech firm used personal information in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalized political advertisements, tech whistleblower and former employee Christopher Wylie told the Observer.” – The Guardian

Facebook sued for misusing their users data and allowing it to be used for political manipulation.

Facebook – WhatsApp – Instagram

“The FTC is seeking to break up the company. As much as the case continues to move forward, and that pressure to divest Instagram, in particular, from Facebook, that’s obviously a very, very big deal and what I’ve told many over the last few years, I think we should all reflect on, is if we look at what’s happened and the concerns around Facebook over the last, let’s call it five years, and we reflect on if they actually had to compete with Instagram and how the two companies would behave or behave differently… I think that’s the key question,” said Jason Kint – Tech Policy Press

Break up monopolies

The F.T.C. argues in its suit that Facebook obtained a monopoly in social networking and maintained it illegally by acquiring rivals. The lawsuit focuses on the company’s acquisitions of Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014. “FTC used data from Comscore, a publicly available data analysis firm, showing that Facebook’s share of the daily social media market had exceeded 70 percent since 2016. The agency said the company was able to achieve and maintain its dominance by buying rivals including the photo-sharing app Instagram, and WhatsApp, a popular messaging service.

Instead of innovating and growing on its own merits, the company removed competition from the market and made it harder for new entrants to emerge, the agency claimed. Those deals, which were approved by previous leaders at the F.T.C., have led to less innovation and a deterioration in privacy and security for Instagram and WhatsApp users.” – NY Times

Tech Policy Press

This blog was inspired by Zamaan Qureshi’s article by ‘Suits Target Mark Zuckerberg Over Cambridge Analytica: Why It Matters‘ in Tech Policy Press. Tech Policy Press is a nonprofit media and community venture intended to provoke new ideas, debate and discussion at the intersection of technology and democracy. It publishes opinion and analysis with the goal of advancing a pro-democracy movement in tech and tech policy with a focus on:

  • Concentrations of power: the role and interaction of tech platforms, governments and the media and the future of the public sphere;
  • Geopolitics of technology: how nation states approach technology in the pursuit of advantage;
  • Technology and the economy: the relationship between markets, business, and labor;
  • Racism, bigotry, violence & oppression: how tech exacerbates or solves such challenges;
  • Ethics of Technology: how technology should be viewed alongside existing democratic ethos, especially with regard to privacy, surveillance and personal freedoms;
  • Election integrity & participation: mechanisms of democracy, problems such as disinformation and how citizens come to consensus. 

Donate to Tech Policy Press to help build stronger democracies

TakeAway: Your privacy is your business. Stop billionaires from making money selling your personal data.



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