Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Image Credit: AP

Zuckerberg still could escape largely unaffected as a result of negotiations with the FTC. If he does, it would not be the first time. More than eight years ago, when the FTC cobbled together its initial settlement with Facebook, agency staffers weighed whether to target Zuckerberg personally. An early, unreleased and undated draft of the FTC’s consent order against Facebook, obtained by the Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, explicitly named Zuckerberg as a respondent — meaning he would have faced heightened federal oversight and the risk of fines and other penalties in the event of future privacy missteps.

In the end, however, the FTC dropped mention of him from a version of the order shared around April 2011, according to email records obtained from the agency under open-records laws. The agency also considered, then removed, a provision from its early settlement that would have required Facebook to pay an unspecified sum to the government, the records show. The form of punishment, called disgorgement, requires a company to return ill-gotten monetary gains. The draft consent decree included only an “xxx” instead of an exact amount, and the language was ultimately removed by the time the FTC announced its agreement with Facebook in November 2011.

This time, FTC veterans have encouraged the agency to take direct aim at Zuckerberg, even putting him personally under order and subjecting him to further federal oversight. David Vladeck, who served as the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC in 2011, criticised the company last week because it “did not take that first consent decree seriously”.

“I would hope any future order names Zuckerberg,” he said, adding that doing so “ratchets pressure up on the company to make the CEO responsible”.