Facebook on Wednesday denied that it had uncovered any emails that could show CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew of “problematic privacy practices” at the social media company, saying instead that it was fully complying with a federal investigation into its role in the Cambridge Analytica data breach.
The tech giant’s pushback comes after The Wall Street Journal, citing several anonymous sources, reported that Facebook had unearthed emails in which Zuckerberg may have voiced concerns about internal privacy standards. The newspaper, which said it had not obtained the emails, only details about them, also alluded that such knowledge could have violated a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to better protect user data.
Facebook, however, rejected those claims, saying it had turned over troves of data to the FTC and that no one at the company had violated federal orders, Zuckerberg included.
“We have fully cooperated with the FTC’s investigation to date and provided tens of thousands of documents, emails and files,” a Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost. “At no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company’s obligations under the FTC consent order nor do any emails exist that indicate they did.”
The FTC has been investigating Facebook for more than a year following reports that the political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested the personal data of 87 million users of the social network platform during the 2016 presidential campaign. Officials have been trying to determine if Facebook violated a 2011 agreement in which the company pledged to better protect user data.
At no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company’s obligations under the FTC consent order nor do any emails exist that indicate they did.
Facebook said in April that it expected to be fined $3 billion to $5 billion by the FTC over the privacy violations stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and has been in negotiations with federal regulators over the scope of the penalty. If the fine reaches those heights, it would be a record penalty leveled against a technology behemoth and a major signal that the U.S. is willing to rein in such companies.
Some lawmakers, however, have issued warnings that even a $5 billion hit would merely be a “write-down” for a company as large as Facebook. Last month, two top senators ― Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) ― urged the FTC to take a hard line against Facebook, calling its actions “blatant and brazen” and saying such a fine would be a “bargain.”
“Fines alone are insufficient,” the two senators wrote. “Far-reaching reforms must finally hold Facebook accountable to customers. We are deeply concerned that one-time penalties of any size every few years are woefully inadequate to effectively restrain Facebook.”
Facebook reported revenue in excess of $15 billion for the first quarter of the year, and the company has more active users than ever.
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