Facebook Worries Emails Could Show Zuckerberg Knew of Questionable Privacy Practices

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg making his keynote speech at a developers’ conference in San Jose, Calif., in April. (PHOTO CREDIT: STEPHEN LAM/REUTERS)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg making his keynote speech at a developers’ conference in San Jose, Calif., in April. (PHOTO CREDIT: STEPHEN LAM/REUTERS)

Facebook uncovered emails that appear to connect Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to potentially problematic privacy practices at the company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Within the company, the unearthing of the emails in the process of responding to a continuing federal privacy investigation has raised concerns that they would be harmful to Facebook—at least from a public-relations standpoint—if they were to become public, one of the people said.

The potential impact of the internal emails has been a factor in the tech giant’s desire to reach a speedy settlement of the investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, one of the people said. Facebook is operating under a 2012 consent decree with the agency related to privacy, and the emails sent around that time suggest that Mr. Zuckerberg and other senior executives didn’t make compliance with the FTC order a priority, the people said.

It couldn’t be determined exactly what emails the agency has requested and how many of them relate to Mr. Zuckerberg.

The FTC investigation began more than a year ago after reports that personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users improperly wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign. The FTC is investigating whether that lapse violated the 2012 consent decree with the agency in which Facebook agreed to better protect user privacy. Since the Cambridge Analytica affair, other privacy missteps have come to light, adding to Facebook’s headaches.

Facebook has been eager to strike a deal with the FTC and put the Cambridge Analytica scandal behind it. The firm said in April it was expecting to pay up to $5 billion as part of an accord with the agency.

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SOURCE: John D. McKinnon, Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman, and Jeff Horwitz
The Wall Street Journal