New lawsuit claims Facebook could still access deleted user data for cops

A former employee says Meta fired him after he raised concerns about a 'protocol' allowing the company to access deleted Messenger data.

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address to kick off  the F8 Facebook'...
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Facebook allegedly narcs on its users far more than we already assumed, according to a new lawsuit filed by a former employee and Air Force veteran. Earlier this week, Brennan Lawson sued the Big Tech giant, claiming it fired him “in retaliation for raising concerns about a protocol that let Facebook employees access deleted user data,” according to a rundown from Business Insider earlier this morning. But don’t worry: it apparently only does that when Zuckerberg is trying to appease law enforcement agencies.

Lawson — the former member of an “Escalations Team” whose responsibilities included content moderation for high-profile, often graphic materials — says that a back-end protocol introduced in 2019 allowed him and other employees to access supposedly deleted Facebook Messenger data that the company publicly swore to consumers was inaccessible. When approached by U.S. law enforcement agencies, the Escalations Team would sometimes utilize the protocol to provide cops with data on suspects to remain “in the good graces of the government,” according to the lawsuit.

Upon voicing his issues with the policy, however, Lawson alleges he was soon fired for the odd reason of not following proper Facebook steps when attempting to help recover his own grandmother’s hacked account.

Still fuzzy on the details — Unfortunately, that’s about all we know regarding the lawsuit at the moment. It’s still unclear how often Facebook complied with law enforcements’ requests, and what specific user data it provided to them. Regardless, Lawson’s claims make it clear that this information was data many users believed to be deleted and inaccessible — precisely because Facebook publicly promised this.

It’s hard to keep track of the legal and financial troubles facing Meta these days, from lax rules on gun sales, to far-right exploitation, to even endangered wildlife tracking. That said, this newest lawsuit could be one of the most damning indictments of Zuckerberg’s empire yet. It’s hard to excuse straight-up lying to your consumer base about their privacy guarantees, something made even harder when everyone realizes that Facebook has essentially been ratting to the feds for years in an effort to stave off regulations.