A former Facebook employee says he was fired for raising concerns about a new company protocol that allowed staff to access deleted user data and share the information with law enforcement.
Former content screener, Brennan Lawson, is suing Facebook’s parent company, Meta, claiming he was informed about the new protocol during a staff meeting in 2019 and immediately questioned its legality. Soon after, he claims he was fired and remained unemployed for 18 months. He’s seeking more than $3 million in compensation plus punitive damages.
Lawson, who worked in a role similar to a Facebook Content Moderator, says the company introduced a protocol in 2019 which let people on his team access Facebook Messenger data even if it had been deleted by a user.
In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Lawson states that the new protocol allowed members of the social network’s Global Escalation Team “to circumvent Facebook’s normal privacy protocols” by retrieving data from the Messenger app “that users had chosen to delete.” He says this was at odds with what Facebook told users which was “that once content was deleted by its users, it would not remain on any Facebook servers and would be permanently removed.”
Lawson says the protocol was used to access user data when law enforcement requested such data about a suspect to be given to them by Facebook so they could be assisted during their investigations, reports Business Insider.
“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,” the lawsuit says.
Lawson says Facebook retaliated against him after he questioned the legality of this protocol in a meeting, and that it used a pretext involving his grandmother’s hacked Facebook account to fire him.
Lawson’s grandmother contacted him in 2019 to say her Facebook account had been hacked. Lawson says he directed her case through the appropriate channels to restore her account, but Facebook fired him claiming he had not followed company protocol by typing his grandmother’s email address into an admin tool, the lawsuit alleges.
This is not the first time Meta has found itself in legal trouble in recent times. Last month, Meta was served with eight different lawsuits that contend the company deliberately adjusted its algorithm to hook young people.