Facebook's privacy mishaps: Zuckerberg could be held accountable, report says

The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly looking into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's past remarks about privacy.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
Queenie Wong
2 min read
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At Joint Senate Commerce/Judiciary Hearing

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg may find himself in hot water with federal regulators.

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into how to hold Zuckerberg accountable for Facebook's privacy mishaps, The Washington Post reported, citing two people familiar with the matter. That includes examining Zuckerberg's past remarks about privacy. 

The FTC started investigating Facebook last year after revelations surfaced that UK political consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of up to 87 million Facebook users without their permission. The agency is focusing on whether the social network violated a legal agreement with the US government to keep Facebook users' data private.

The investigation is ongoing, but Facebook could also face a fine that's larger than the record-setting $22.5 million the FTC imposed on Google in 2012. 

In response to questions about the Post's report, a Facebook spokesperson said only that the company hopes "to reach an appropriate and fair resolution" with the FTC. The agency declined to comment. 

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook's privacy and security issues have continued to pile up. This week, the company said millions of passwords for Facebook-owned Instagram were stored in a way that made it possible for its employees to read them. Facebook also said that it unintentionally harvested email contacts from 1.5 million users without their permission.

Zuckerberg vowed in March to build a "privacy-focused" social network and messaging platform.  

This isn't the first time the FTC has weighed whether to hold Zuckerberg personally accountable for the social network's privacy problems. FTC documents obtained by the Post through a public records request showed that the agency considered putting Zuckerberg under order during its last settlement with Facebook, in 2011, but that it decided not to. If the agency had done so, Zuckerberg could've been hit with fines for future privacy lapses.