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As Facebook prepares to celebrate its 15th anniversary, the company is battling a stream of negative headlines. The world’s most popular social networking site was launched on February 4, 2004 by a Harvard undergraduate named Mark Zuckerberg. (Feb. 4)
AP

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg is in the crosshairs of federal regulators who are considering whether to hold him accountable for privacy lapses in how Facebook handles the data of its more than 2 billion users, according to a published report.

The issue of whether to increase oversight of Facebook’s co-founder, CEO and chairman comes as the social media giant is in talks to settle a probe by the Federal Trade Commission that has gone on for more than a year, the Washington Post reported.

“We hope to reach an appropriate and fair resolution,” Facebook said late Thursday. The FTC declined to comment.

For Facebook, beset for months by scandals and setbacks, the probe is just another in a long line of challenges. But the FTC penalizing one of corporate America’s best known leaders would turn up the pressure on Zuckerberg and send a message with broad implications for Silicon Valley.

Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

The FTC’s investigation stems from March 2018 reports that Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to the data of some 87 million Facebook users. At issue is whether Facebook violated an agreement it reached with the FTC in 2011 to safeguard the privacy of its users. On Thursday Facebook admitted it had mishandled the passwords of millions of users of Instagram, which it owns, the latest disclosure that has shaken public confidence in the company.

A fine from the FTC could also run into the billions of dollars and the settlement could limit the way Facebook collects and handles user data which is vital to Facebook’s advertising business.

Promises, promises?: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has promised to protect user privacy before. Will this time be different?

Privacy lapses plague Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg pledges Facebook will put ‘people first,’ avoid past mistakes

Last year when appearing before Congress in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg told lawmakers the buck stops with him at Facebook. 

“I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here,” he told lawmakers. But he also insisted that the privacy lapse did not violate Facebook’s agreement with the FTC.

Other agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission have also probed what happened with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook used to be treated like royalty in Washington, D.C., but has been getting the cold shoulder recently as it grapples with the fallout from Russian election interference and other troubles. The tech giant is not alone. 

Regulators have intensified their scrutiny and lawmakers have stepped up their rhetoric. This “tech lash” is also a hot topic on the campaign trail. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been most aggressive, calling for the break up of Amazon, Google and Facebook through antitrust laws and stricter regulation of how firms stockpile vast amounts personal data.

Facebook’s troubles with Republicans: Ted Cruz threatens to regulate Facebook, Google and Twitter over charges of anti-conservative bias

Facebook could face more regulation: Facebook, Twitter face threat of regulation as Congress criticizes response to Russia, bias claims

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