The reputation of scandal – plagued social media giant Facebook took another hit on Wednesday after emails emerged which appear to show CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s knowledge of questionable privacy practices at the company, (and presumably his approval of such malfeasances as he did not act to stop them,) according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter.
The WSJ wrote:
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.
It is not yet known exactly which emails the FTC has requested, or to what extent they implicate Zuckerberg.
The FTC launched its investigation in 2018 in the wake of the scandal surrounding the massive ‘data harvesting’ exercise brought to light by the Cambridge Analytica controversy which revealed that company specifically had used illegally obtained personal data to target certain users with news intended to influence voting patterns.
In the wake of that other abuses of users’ private information were brough to light and it became clear that Facebook was directly involved in gathering data on web users who do not even have a Facbook account.
The FTC investigators will be looking to ascertain if Facebook’s data privacy lapses violated a 2012 consent decree the company agreed to.
In one email exchange from April 2012 that has caught regulators’ attention, according to a person familiar with the matter, Mr. Zuckerberg asked employees about an app that claimed to have built a database stocked with information about tens of millions of Facebook users. The developer had the ability to display that user information to others on its own site, regardless of those users’ privacy settings on Facebook, the person said.
Mr. Zuckerberg wanted to know if such extensive data collection was possible and if Facebook should do anything to stop developers from displaying that data, the person said.
Another employee responded to Mr. Zuckerberg’s question, saying it was possible and many developers do the same thing but adding it was a complicated issue, the person said. –Wall Street Journal
The Journal also notes that email exchange in question happened after the FTC’s consent decree had been agreed, but before the date on which it took effect, bringing to mind Zuckerberg’s most famous one – liner, “The dumb fucks trust me.”.
The current report states “If [the decree] had been in effect at the time, the stockpiling of such user data would potentially have violated it. Mr. Zuckerberg’s message seemed to indicate he was aware of that, according to the person who was familiar with the exchange,” per the report.
In April, the company said it anticipates paying up to $5 billion to settle the case.
On Tuesday, Facebook said in a statement: “We have fully cooperated with the FTC’s investigation to date and provided tens of thousands of documents, emails and files. We are continuing to work with them and hope to bring this matter to an appropriate resolution.”