Mark Zuckerberg to face deposition over Cambridge Analytica scandal

The Meta CEO, and former COO Sheryl Sandberg will be questioned as part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Facebook users in California

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the Facebook parent company Meta, will face a six-hour deposition over the way the company handled user data relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to new court filings.

The deposition comes as part of a lawsuit filed in a California court on behalf of Facebook users impacted by the platform’s partnership with Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm accused of manipulating user data.

As the Guardian revealed in 2018, the company had partnered with the Donald Trump campaign team and gained access to the private data of 50 million Facebook users, which was used to profile voters. The company also played a role in the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK.

Sheryl Sandberg, who stepped down as chief operating officer of the platform in June, will also face more than five hours of deposition interviews as part of the discovery process. Her successor in the role, Javier Olivan, has also been named in the suit and could face up to three hours of deposition.

The depositions are scheduled to take place over the next two months, and could feature other witnesses including Facebook privacy officer Rob Sherman, former director of product management Eddie O’Neil, and platform partnership executive Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, according to filings.

In a civil case, a witness who testifies at a deposition is under oath, with a court reporter transcribing everything the witness says. Typically, the deposition is taken at the law firm of the party seeking the deposition. Because the testimony is delivered under oath, the witness is testifying under the penalty of perjury.

Robert Frenchman, a partner at the New York law firm Mukasey Frenchman, said the use of time limits is unusual in depositions taken in civil cases, but lawyers representing the plaintiffs would be happy for the opportunity to depose the CEO and former COO.

“Plaintiffs savor the opportunity to cross-examine C-suite executives, and they’ll have free rein on a broad range of topics. For the corporate defendant, there is far more to lose than gain,” he said.

Throughout the discovery process for the case, plaintiffs have obtained thousands of exhibits from the company going back 13 years. Facebook has pushed back against the extensive investigation, accusing plaintiffs in a court filing of “constant and continuing overreach”.

The suit could reveal new details in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which rocked the company’s public reputation and led to congressional hearings in which Zuckerberg was grilled for hours over Facebook’s data privacy policies.

The company agreed to a record $5bn fine from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019 over the scandal, but critics have pushed for more legal accountability, noting that financial consequences mean little for the massive firm. Meta reported $118bn (£99bn) in revenue in 2021. Facebook has been hit with a number of lawsuits relating to the case, including four in just one week of 2018. This suit is the first to include extensive depositions from high-level Facebook executives. Plaintiffs are seeking up to $5m in damages.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

• This article was amended on 21 July 2022 to correct Meta’s reported 2021 revenue from $28.3bn to $118bn.

Contributors

Kari Paul and Dan Milmo

The GuardianTramp

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