RFOB Uncovers Never-Before-Seen Zuckerberg Deposition in Lawsuit Against SEC; SEC, Meta Continue to Stonewall on Likely Sandberg Revelations

Real Facebook Oversight Board
4 min readDec 13, 2023

Embargoed until 9AM EST 13 December — The latest transcript obtained by RFOB policy advisor Zamaan Qureshi through a lawsuit against the SEC reveals that Facebook and Zuckerberg failed in their responsibilities to notify users, shareholders, regulators, and the public over a major privacy breach. Still, the SEC and Meta are stonewalling on critical further details, refusing to un-redact details almost certainly showing what other leading Meta executives knew about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“It has taken me over two years to get access to Zuckerberg’s deposition which has required multiple appeals to the SEC and a lawsuit,” Qureshi said, “It should not be this hard to hold our government or Big Tech accountable.”

The partially unredacted document can be found here. This transcript shows the degree and proximity to which people close to Zuckerberg are either flagging their concerns about Cambridge Analytica or company executives who failed to remove Cambridge Analytica as a developer from Facebook’s systems. In total, Qureshi was able to get 298 redactions removed from the original transcript.

“This is a gross failure in leadership that we have seen time and again at Meta,” said Qureshi, “just like the recent lawsuits filed by states against Instagram, executives and employees alike raised concerns to Zuckerberg who turned a blind eye.”

The document shows:

  • Zuckerberg testified that the operations and partnership teams failed in coordinating to ban Cambridge Analytica as a developer on Facebook after they sold user information, in violation of Facebook’s policies
  • David Plouffe and Ken Mehlman, hires Zuckerberg made to the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative raised concerns about Cambridge Analytica to the Meta CEO
  • Zuckerberg maintained a close relationship with a Harvard Professor — Harry Lewis — who helped the CEO develop ideas like ‘social graph’, and had relatives working at Facebook who raised internal concerns about Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg and Lewis’ relative attended Harvard University at the same time.

The transcript also sheds light on the role that Dan Rose, a since-departed executive at Facebook and VP of partnerships during the scandal, and Justin Osofsky, now Meta’s Head of Online Sales, Operations, and Partnerships played in failing to remove Cambridge Analytica.

The effort to secure this transcript has been ongoing for more than two years. In December 2022, Qureshi obtained a heavily redacted copy of a damning transcript of Mark Zuckerberg’s 2019 deposition to the SEC. We revealed that Zuckerberg misled Congress when he first became aware of Cambridge Analytica, the British consultancy firm that sparked a major privacy scandal.

Importantly, Zuckerberg testified to Congress before and after the SEC deposition (in April 2018 and November 2019 respectively) and was pressed about when he first became aware of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He maintained to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that it was not until March of 2018 when the Guardian and New York Times published their stories that he became aware. In reality, Zuckerberg became aware dating back to January 2017 when he emailed executives internally asking about the firm.

By the Fall of 2017, he was equating Cambridge Analytica as a threat commensurate with “Russian Intelligence and Soviet States,” in the first draft of a speech delivered on Facebook Live. The reference was later removed by advisors. It shows that between early 2017 and Fall 2017, Zuckerberg was made personally aware that Cambridge Analytica was a serious threat — and a reference to them was edited out of a notable speech.

The original version we obtained can be found here.

The findings also reveal a failure by the SEC to arrive at a settlement commensurate with what the FTC was able to obtain and a failure to disclose information as required under the Freedom of Information Act.

The SEC failed to disclose a redaction that pointed to Sheryl Sandberg, former Meta COO, as having been deposed in the same case even though the redacted name clearly refers to Ms. Sandberg.

“Overall, this is a win for accountability over Meta and the U.S. government that we were able to obtain as much as we did,” Qureshi said, “the public deserves to look back at the Cambridge Analytica scandal and understand the full facts — without Facebook’s PR spin. My case clearly shows the Facebook CEO failed in his responsibilities to be forthright with Congress and the public.”

This concludes Qureshi’s case against the SEC. He is represented by Public Citizen Litigation Group.

Zamaan Qureshi and members are available for interviews. Statements do not reflect the individual positions of all Real Facebook Oversight Board Members. Contact us at media@the-citizens.com.

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Real Facebook Oversight Board

An emergency response to the ongoing harms on Facebook’s platforms from leading global scholars, experts and advocates.