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Iran demands Mark Zuckerberg's presence in court

It seems that, even in Iran, Facebook-owned apps like Instagram and WhatsApp are disturbing users about privacy. One judge wants the Facebook CEO to explain himself in person.

"So, judge. There's up to 24 privacy controls, depending on the day of the week." Worldclic/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Mark Zuckerberg and privacy have rarely gone steady.

There was a time when he didn't want her at all. These days, however, it's as if she performs useful administrative duties on his behalf.

Somehow, though, he's always got away with it in the US. A change of policy here, a couple more privacy options there, and Facebook has become not only vast but the owner of Instagram and WhatsApp.

Now one judge, perched in a bastion of personal freedom, has decided that the young tycoon should be called to account. Publicly, that is.

As the Associated Press reports, a judge in southern Iran has decided to look Zuckerberg in the eye and hiss: "Come hither."

The judge demanded that Zuckerberg appears in his court and explains why some Iranians claim that Instagram and WhatsApp are invading their privacy.

It's unclear who these individuals are. Might they be government members who just cannot resist popping a scenic view or two onto Instagram? Might they be other powerful people who use WhatsApp to discuss matters with a higher authority?

It's curious that these apps can even be used in Iran. Facebook itself is verboten. Moreover, I don't feel the Iranians have helped their chances of persuading the Facebook CEO to visit the court by using snivellingly intemperate language.

A statement issued by Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, an Iranian internet official, read: "According to the court's ruling, the Zionist director of the company of Facebook or his official attorney must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses."

Given that, surprisingly, there's no extradition treaty between Iran and the US, you might imagine that inviting Zuckerberg to a hackathon and then grabbing him while he's tinkling on the keyboards would have been a wiser approach.

The Iranian government is currently trying to take a more lenient view toward the Web. Younger Iranians are quite wily in their ability to ignore official strictures and bathe in the wider virtual world. Even Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is fond of a tweet or two.

I suspect therefore that the closest the judge will get to hearing Zuckerberg explain Facebook's elementary privacy policies in person will be a very public whistling in the wind.