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Facebook Accessed Deleted User Data, Sacked Employee Claims

A former Facebook content screener says he was fired for raising alarms about a new company protocol that allows employees to retrieve deleted data from users.

A former Facebook content screener says he was fired for raising alarms about a new company protocol that allows employees to retrieve deleted data from users.

Brennan Lawson sued Facebook’s parent Meta Platforms Inc. in California on Tuesday, claiming he was informed of the new protocol during a staff meeting in late 2018 and immediately questioned its validity. Soon, he said he was fired and had been unemployed for 18 months. He is seeking more than 3 million in damages and punitive damages.

According to Lawson, the new protocol allows members of the social network’s global escalation team to “retrieve data from the Messenger app” to “evade Facebook’s normal privacy protocols” that users have chosen to delete.

Allegedly, the protocol appears to violate EU digital privacy rules and orders from the Federal Trade Commission, which requires Facebook to properly inform users about its data retention policies.

Lawson said he realized he was “on shaky ground” to question the validity of the practice and feared he would be fired if he pressed the matter. He was fired in July 2019, on charges of improper use of a Facebook administrative tool. He claims that this is an excuse and an act of revenge for his allegations.

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment sent after regular business hours.

The escalation team used protocols to help law enforcement agencies investigate users, Lawson said.

“Law enforcement will ask questions about the suspect’s use of the platform, such as to whom the suspect was sending messages, when the message was sent, and even what is in those messages,” Lawson claimed. “To keep Facebook in the good favor of the government, the escalation team will use back-end protocols to provide answers for law enforcement agencies and then determine how much to share.”

The lawsuit was filed by Lawson v Meta Platforms Inc., 22-civ-02723, San Mateo Superior Court (Redwood City).




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