Federal investigators could hold Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible for any Facebook privacy failings, according to new report

  • Mark Zuckerbergcould be held directly responsible by the Federal Trade Commission for any Facebook privacy failings in an ongoing investigation of the social network,The Washington Post reports.
  • The FTC’s investigation is the result ofthe Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed the Facebook user data of millions of people was improperly handled by third-party services.
  • If Zuckerberg is targeted in the investigation, it would represent a significant increase in federal scrutiny for the man in charge of one of the tech industry’s biggest companies.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

A federal investigation into Facebook could find Mark Zuckerberg directly responsible for any privacy failings on the social network,according to a new report in the Washington Post.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating Facebook over the mishandling of user data on the platform, stemming fromthe Cambridge Analytica scandalin 2018 which revealed that 50 million Facebook users had their data improperly shared with outside parties without their knowledge or consent.

Two sources speaking with the Washington Post said that the FTC is considering whether to, “seek new, heightened oversight” of Zuckerberg’s leadership, in addition to potentiallyseeking a multibillion-dollar finefor the social network. Facebook said in a statement to the Washington Post and to Business Insider that it hopes to “reach an appropriate and fair resolution.” The FTC declined to comment.

While Facebook has found itself in the crosshairs of federal investigators in the past, Zuckerberg hasn’t been specifically targeted or sanctioned.

The investigation is looking into whether Facebook violated the terms of a 2011 settlement with the FTC, specifically something called the “consent decree,” which essentially made Facebook responsible for being transparent with users about how their data was being used on the platform — with future violations leading potentially to huge fines for the company, but not Zuckerberg himself. Facebook has said in the past that it has not violated the consent decree.

But now Zuckerberg’s past comments on Facebook privacy are being examined, the Washington Post reports, and the FTC could try to send a message to corporate leaders that they could be held liable for their company’s mishaps.

If the FTC decides to hold Zuckerberg personally responsible for any Facebook failings when it comes to user privacy, it would represent a marked increase in the scrutiny of his leadership.

Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It’s been a bad week for Facebook

The report comes in the wake of recent revelationsdiscovered by Business Insiderthat Facebook collected the email contact lists of 1.5 million new users without their knowledge of permission.

Due to a discontinued email verification system used by Facebook with new users, the tech giant inadvertently collected email contact information from 1.5 million new users.

That data includes potentially tens or hundreds of millions of email addresses, that were used without permission by Facebook to “improve Facebook’s ad targeting, build Facebook’s web of social connections, and recommend friends to add,”Business Insider’s Rob Price wrote on Wednesday.

Despite the message reading, “We couldn’t find any contacts,” Facebook was still importing email contacts and using them for ad targeting.

Worse: That violation could lead to yet more investigations by government regulators around the world.

Expertsspeaking with Business Insidersaid that the company could be violating a variety of regulations, including a US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consent decree; the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European Union’s data-privacy regulation; and perhaps even the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a US criminal statute involving computer fraud and abuse.

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