Federal Trade Commission officials are debating whether to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook’s privacy failures, according to reports by The Washington Post we had NBC News. Facebook has been trying to protect Zuckerberg from that possibility in negotiations with the FTC, the Post wrote.
Federal regulators investigating Facebook are “examining its past privacy practices and weighing whether to seek new, executive oversight,” the Post reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the FTC’s discussions.
“Discussions about how to hold Zuckerberg accountable for Facebook’s data lapses are the context of a wide-ranging international dispute between the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook that could resolve the government’s more than year-old investigation,” the Post wrote .
According to NBC, FTC officials are “discussing whether and how to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for the company’s history of mishandling users’ private data.” However, NBC said that its sources “will not elaborate on what measures are specifically under consideration.”
According to the Post, a plan raised during the investigation “may require (Zuckerberg) or other executives to periodically testify about company privacy practices to the board of directors.”
But it’s unclear how likely the FTC will target Zuckerberg in the final decision, and “Facebook has fought hard to protect Zuckerberg as part of the negotiations, one of the sources familiar with the investigation said,” the Post wrote.
Facebook removed the “recycled” story line.
When contacted by Ars, Facebook said, “These stories have been recycled for some time.” The company refers to April 2 Political history as an example. But Politico’s story is more interesting: it says that the FTC can use its authority to find “new, more aggressive private auditors; or even management changes, up to the level of Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.” And unlike the latest Post and NBC stories, the Politico article discusses the FTC targeting Zuckerberg as a theoretical possibility and does not say that FTC investigators themselves are considering a penalty for Zuckerberg.
As for the FTC’s investigation, Facebook told Ars that it hopes “to reach an appropriate and fair resolution” with the commission.
The FTC reached out to a sharing with Facebook in 2011 on charges that it misled users by failing to keep privacy promises. During the lead-up to that decision, the FTC “considered, then backed down, to put Zuckerberg directly under the jurisdiction,” the Post wrote. “Had he done so, Zuckerberg could have faced fines for future privacy violations.”
The FTC’s current investigation start in March 2018, after revelations that up to 87 million user details were improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. The FTC investigation hinges on whether Facebook violated the terms of its 2011 settlement with the FTC. That decision prohibits Facebook from demonstrating the privacy or security of user information, and requires Facebook to obtain the consent of customers before making changes that update their privacy settings.
Republicans hold a 3-2 majority on the FTC. Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra wrote in May 2018 note that “the FTC should prosecute individual executives for the violations in which they participated, even if these people were not named in the original orders.”