In 2017, Facebook didn’t name Cambridge Analytica -deposition.
A deposition from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission shows that Mark Zuckerberg thought about saying in a speech in 2017 that Facebook was looking into “organisations like Cambridge Analytica.”
But he decided to get rid of any mention of the political consulting firm that collected data on millions of Facebook users before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This was a previously unreported move that could add fuel to shareholder claims that Zuckerberg and other executives hid information from the public about one of Facebook’s biggest privacy scandals.
Related: Facebook would suppress stories if the US Congress passed a media law.
When Meta executives found out about problems with Cambridge Analytica and what they did about it are at the centre of lawsuits in California and Delaware. Shareholders say the executives broke their fiduciary duties, and customers say their private information was mishandled.
The lawyers for both groups of plaintiffs refused to say anything.
Facebook, which is now called Meta Platforms Inc. (META.O), told Cambridge Analytica in 2015 to delete information it had collected about users without permission. Facebook said it thought the problem was solved until March 2018, when new questions came up.
The transcript of the February 2019 deposition, which Reuters got this month after making a public records request, shows that Zuckerberg repeated that timeline and said he was told not to name organisations in the speech.
Parts have been taken out, so it’s not clear why Zuckerberg wanted to mention Cambridge six months before the new accusations. In the deposition, Zuckerberg also admits that in January 2017, he asked his colleagues to look into Cambridge’s claims about its influence on elections.
Meta didn’t say anything about the reference that was taken out, other than to say that its case with the SEC had been settled for more than three years.
In March 2018, the media said that Cambridge kept using data from Facebook. This led to government investigations into how Facebook protected people’s data, which Facebook settled in the US for at least $5.1 billion.
As part of the settled investigation, the SEC asked Zuckerberg in the deposition about a draught speech he wrote about how Russia might have used Facebook services to meddle in the 2016 election.
In the draught that the SEC saw, Zuckerberg suggested saying, “We are already looking into foreign actors, including Russian intelligence, actors in other former Soviet states, and organisations like Cambridge Analytica.”
Transcripts of his livestreamed comments show that he said, “We are looking into foreign actors, such as more Russian groups and other countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union, as well as groups like the campaigns.”
Related: This week, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, is planning to lay off a lot of people, including: report
Zamaan Qureshi, a policy advisor for The Real Facebook Oversight Board, said that the deposition should make people doubt Meta even more.
“Attempts to hide the truth just show that it’s hard to trust the company’s leaders,” Qureshi said.