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Former Facebook employee sues Meta Platforms for accessing deleted data illegally

Brennan Lawson, a former Facebook employee, has filed a lawsuit ( 22-civ-02723, San Mateo Superior Court) against the parent company of Facebook, Meta Platforms Inc, claiming that he was fired from the company when he pointed out illegality in company policies.

According to lawsuit, Brennan Lawson who worked as a content screener at Facebook was informed in a staff meeting in 2018 that new company protocols allow employees to get access to data that was deleted by the users. This was a serious violation of the privacy of users and as deleted data was not part of Facebook data policies.

Members of the Global Escalation Team of Facebook used the new protocols and modified company policy to retrieve data from Messenger App which users had decided to delete.

Brennan Lawson who was an air force veteran got hired into the team in July 2018 where he should go through posts involving graphic content such as murder and beheading and moderate such posts.

According to the complaint forwarded by Lawson in court, this move by Global Escalation Team was to evade normal privacy protocols of Facebook which prohibits any kind of resurrection of deleted user data.

The new protocols devised by the company were also against various rules and regulations of European Union regarding data privacy and data protection. Lawson also found out that the actions by company were in clear violation of rulings and orders by Federal Trade Commission of the United States. FTC had earlier released an order which asked Facebook to inform users about which all data would be retained and policies regarding the usage of the retained data.

Once Brennan put out his argument against the new protocols with his supervisors and colleagues, he realised his job was under constant threat.

As an expected reaction, Lawson got fired from Facebook content screening team in the month of July 2019 on basis of allegations that he missed the administrative tool of Facebook.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in congressional hearings on data privacy and protection

Brennan in his lawsuit claims that this move from the company to fire him was part of its retaliatory measure of him pointing out issues with the policy.

After the incident, Brennan was unemployed for nearly 18 months.

The lawsuit also mentions how the social media company assisted law enforcement agencies of various countries using retained data and restoring data from Messenger App which got deleted by users.

Agencies usually ask questions to the company regarding how suspected users used the platform, who they were messaging, what was the content of the message and when it was sent. Facebook would then through the Global Escalation Team make use of the back-end protocol to get necessary data and information. This information was then shared with agencies for their investigation purposes.

Brennan Lawson is suing Meta Platforms in San Mateo Superior Court in Redwood City, seeking 3 million dollars as damages, both compensatory and punitive.

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