Internal email exchanges involving Mark Zuckerberg and other employees showed the Facebook CEO may have known about possible privacy issues on the social platform and didn’t make it a priority to address them, a report said Wednesday.
The Wall Street Journal reported that some internal emails showed Facebook employees attempting to address potential problematic privacy problems that would violate a 2012 FTC consent decree that required the social media company “to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its [privacy] promises in the future.” Zuckerberg reportedly appeared to be closely involved with the discussion in some instances.
The report pointed specifically to an email exchange made in April 2012 showing the CEO questioning staffers who were discussing an app that allegedly collected information about tens of millions of Facebook users. The developer could then put the information on its own site for others to view despite the Facebook user’s privacy settings, a source told the newspaper.
Zuckerberg, responding to the email, asked whether Facebook should step in to stop developers from making the data available. An employee reportedly responded to Zuckerberg saying developers could put users’ information in a database, but noted that “it was a complicated issue.”
Although Facebook suspended the app discussed in the email, company executives did not conduct an investigation into whether other apps were collecting users’ data.
The emails showed that Zuckerberg and other employees placed the FTC order on the backburner, rather than prioritizing the issue, the Journal reported. The FTC announced in August 2012 that it accepted the final settlement with Facebook, marking when the consent decree went into effect.
The report comes more than a year after the FTC began investigating Facebook following reports by the New York Times and the Guardian, revealing the social media company had inadvertently allowed Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm, to gather personal data from nearly 70 million of its users.
The agency is trying to determine whether Facebook’s conduct (in addition to a series of additional privacy scandals this past year) amount to violations of a 2012 agreement Facebook brokered with the FTC to improve its privacy practices, the Washington Post previously reported.
The Journal, in their Wednesday report, did not publish information about other emails and which ones the FTC had reviewed in its investigation.
Facebook has insisted that it did not violate the accord.
Zuckerberg’s social media company and the FTC are reportedly embroiled in negotiations over a multi-billion dollar fine that would settle the investigation.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Journal on Tuesday that the company has been “fully cooperating” with the FTC investigation.
“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,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Facebook and its executives, including Mark, at all times strive to comply with all applicable law, and at no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company’s obligations under the FTC consent order.”
Fox Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report.