Facebook accessed deleted user data, former employee claims

Brennan Lawson, a former content screener at Facebook, sued the parent company Meta Platforms Inc. claiming that he was fired for questioning the legality of a protocol with which the social media giant accessed data that users chose to delete.

As reported by Bloomberg, Lawson said he was first informed about the protocol during a company meeting that took place in 2018. According to his complaint, which was filed in California this Tuesday, the protocol enabled the Global Escalation Team of the company “to circumvent Facebook’s normal privacy protocols” by regaining access to data from the Messenger app which users had previously chosen to delete. 

Soon after expressing his concerns, Lawson said he was fired for misusing the company’s administrative tool, which he said was pretextual and a retaliation act against him for being vocal. Lawson didn’t work for 18 months and now seeks over $3 million in compensation in addition to punitive damages. 

According to his complaint, Facebook’s protocol violated the digital privacy policies of the European Union and FTC’s order which required the social media giant to let users know about its data retention policies. 

Lawson said that the protocol was used by the Global Escalation Team to help law enforcement agencies with their investigations.

Law enforcement would ask questions about the suspect’s use of the platform, such as who the suspect was messaging, when messages were sent, and even what those messages contained,” said Lawson. “To keep Facebook in the good graces of the government, the Escalations Team would utilize the back-end protocol to provide answers for the law enforcement agency and then determine how much to share.”

Written by Maya Robertson

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