Meta's Zuckerberg, Sandberg to face questions over data privacy in lawsuit

Facebook Chairman and CEO Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

March 20 (Reuters) - Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and its former chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg must face questions in an antitrust lawsuit that alleges the tech company deceived users and advertisers about data privacy to maintain market power, a court filing on Friday showed.

Lawyers for Meta said two other current executives will be deposed as well in the lawsuit in California federal court, filed by consumers who allege deceptive data collection and use practices, and advertisers who assert that anticompetitive conduct of Meta's Facebook caused them to pay higher prices.

Zuckerberg's deposition has not been scheduled, the filing said, and Sandberg is set to sit for questioning on May 2. Meta has denied the lawsuit's allegations.

In Friday's filing, Meta's attorneys agreed to present Zuckerberg and other leaders for a limited amount of time, although they said it would have been "justified" to "block these depositions outright."

Plaintiffs' lawyers in the case have asserted that Zuckerberg and Sandberg have unique information about data collection and use practices at issue. Meta's lawyers, also representing Sandberg, challenged that claim. The case, composed of about a dozen consolidated lawsuits, seeks unspecified money damages and other relief.

U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco federal court, in an order on Friday, limited the questioning to three hours both for Zuckerberg and Sandberg, a current board member at Meta. The company opposed plaintiffs' efforts for more time.

A Meta spokesperson had no immediate comment on Monday.

Plaintiffs' lawyers, representing consumer and advertisers suing Meta, either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

In 2016, Zuckerberg was deposed in a Delaware federal court antitrust lawsuit, and he spoke with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2017.

Meta's filing indicated that Zuckerberg and other Meta executives will be questioned in the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's case challenging Facebook's acquisitions in 2012 of photo-sharing app Instagram and in 2014 for the messaging services platform WhatsApp.

An FTC spokesperson on Monday declined to comment.

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