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Sen. Wyden: Zuckerberg Should be Liable for Privacy Violations

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who has questioned whether edge giants should continue to get statutory liability protection from third-party postings, said maybe there should be individual liability for such company's privacy practices if the violate the law or settlement agreements.

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, which is reportedly preparing to crack down on Facebook for said privacy practices, Wyden said that any negotiated settlement with Facebook should hold its CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, personally liable for what he says are the company's "repeated violations of American privacy."

Related: FTC's Simons Says It is Cop on Privacy Beat

In a 2011 consent decree settlement with the FTC over its privacy practices, Facebook promised to do better. But in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica "scandal," the FTC is investigating whether the company violated the settlement.

Related: Facebook's Zuckerberg Calls for Edge Regs

Wyden said the FTC can hold an individual responsible for the actions of a corporation where that individual participated in deceptive acts or practices. Wyden said Zuckerberg fits the description. "Given Mr. Zuckerberg's deceptive statements, his personal control over Facebook, and his role in approving key decisions related to the sharing of user data, the FTC can and must hold Mr. Zuckerberg personally responsible for the continued violations," said Wyden, suggesting he has already concluded Facebook is guilty of violating the earlier settlement.

Wyden is author of Sec. 230 the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 provides liability carve-outs for the content posted on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook under the theory they were simply the online public square for those ideas and that to make them liable would blow up their business model.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.