Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Tuesday, charging that they should hold Facebook CEO Jeff Zuckerberg personally “liable” for the company’s many privacy violations.
The FTC has continued to investigate Facebook since March 2018 to determine if it violated a 2011 agreement with the U.S. government to better protect its users’ private data. Wyden’s letter emerges as the Washington Post continues to review Zuckerberg’s past statements and could seek more oversight of his leadership as part of a settlement to end the federal investigation.
In his letter to the FTC, Wyden said Zuckerberg, as the “public face” of Facebook and its majority shareholder, “insulates him from accountability to Facebook’s board and shareholders.”
Under its 2011 agreement with the FTC, the agency requires Facebook to give its users more significant notice on what happens with their data, which could lead to hefty fines. The Post reported that the FTC has sought to fine the social media giant with a dollar figure ranging as high as billions.
A settlement with the FTC could require Facebook’s board of directors to exert more control over the company’s privacy practices.
Wyden wrote to the FTC:
Given Mr. Zuckerberg’s deceptive statements, his personal control over Facebook, and his role in approving key decisions related to the sharing of user data, the FTC can and must hold Mr. Zuckerberg personally responsible for these continued violations. The FTC must also make clear the significant and material penalties that will apply to both Facebook the corporate and Mr. Zuckerberg the individual should any future violations occur.
Sen. Wyden joined other senators who have increased their scrutiny over social media companies’ potential privacy violations. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also requested the FTC to take action regarding Facebook and Google’s potential anticompetitive behavior and violations of American privacy.
“This type of market dominance has amplified concerns about how those companies protect consumers’ online information and about possible anticompetitive conduct that could harm consumers, innovation, and small business growth,” the two senators wrote.
“As Congress considers legislation to enact stronger safeguards for consumers’ online privacy, we urge the FTC to use its existing authority to protect the privacy and security of consumers’ online data,” the senators wrote in a letter to the FTC.