Top Dem calls on FTC to hold Zuckerberg accountable in Facebook probe

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets ‘digital divide’ | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech MORE (D-Ore.) in a Tuesday letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) called on the agency to hold Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook says it may have ‘unintentionally uploaded’ up to 1.5M users’ email contacts Tech companies must act to stop horrific exploitation of their platforms The Hill’s Morning Report — Combative Trump aims at Pelosi before Russia report MORE personally liable for his company’s alleged mishandling of user data.

Wyden sent the letter to the FTC commissioners days after The Washington Post reported that the agency is looking into Zuckerberg’s past statements as part of its probe into whether Facebook misled users about what it does with their data.  

“I write to urge the Federal Trade Commission to ensure that any consent order negotiated with Facebook concerning his company’s unfair and deceptive practices and its mishandling of users’ data holds Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), individually liable for the company’s repeated violations of American’s privacy,” Wyden wrote in the letter, first reported by the Post. 

Facebook in 2012 reached a consent decree with the FTC over charges that it had deceived users into thinking that their information was private when it was not. Under that decree, Facebook is barred from “making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information.” 

The FTC is reportedly considering a multibillion-dollar fine against Facebook for violating that consent decree.

And according to the Post, the agency might seek greater oversight of Zuckerberg’s leadership as part of the settlement to end the probe. 

“Any settlement with Facebook must hold Mr. Zuckerberg individually accountable or his flagrant, repeated violations of Americans’ privacy will continue,” Wyden wrote in the letter, noting that the FTC has the authority to hold individuals responsible for a corporation’s actions “where the individual participated directly in the deceptive practices or acts or had authority to control them.” 

Wyden raised concerns that Zuckerberg is not only Facebook’s CEO, but also controls a majority of the voting rights in the company, which could “insulate … him from accountability to Facebook’s board and shareholders.” 

Another key Democratic lawmaker and tech critic, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), in a statement last week called for the FTC to hold Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives “personally at fault and liable for further wrongdoing.”  

Blumenthal argued that it could set an example for other business leaders on privacy issues. 

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