In the midst of an ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation into Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, a new report suggests that Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg may have known about the company’s much-criticized cavalier approach to privacy.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, emails shared with the FTC suggest that Zuckerberg knew about, and was connected to, the company’s questionable treatment of user data. It’s not clear exactly what the emails say, or whether they are specifically about Cambridge Analytica.
The FTC is investigating Facebook’s alleged sharing of millions of users’ private data with Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting company that did work for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, along with a pro-Brexit group. The company has since shut down in light of the data scandal.
The WSJ report relies on unnamed sources and not the emails itself, but suggests the content of Zuckerberg’s emails could spell trouble for the social network by suggesting that the CEO knew about the mishandled data. According to those anonymous sources, Facebook is working to reach a quick settlement with the FTC in part because of those emails.
In a statement, Facebook denied that the CEO knowingly violated privacy laws, saying that the company has fully cooperated with the FTC investigation. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is one of many recent crises for the massive social networking company.
Along with potential trouble from the FTC, the alleged emails could also spell another public relations disaster for the company. In Zuckerberg’s first statement after the scandal broke, he said that he’d “been working to understand exactly what happened.” While Facebook knew about the data breach after it happened and was told Cambridge Analytica had deleted the data, the FTC investigation could reveal more about what Facebook knew about the mishandled data.
In a statement to the European Union last year, Zuckerberg said the network made a mistake by not taking a broad enough view of the company’s responsibility to user privacy.
Zuckerberg says he plans to move Facebook towards a more privacy-focused platform, but in related lawsuits, Facebook’s attorney has said that there is “no expectation of privacy” on social media.