U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) suggested last week that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should face jail time for his company’s mishandling of user data that allegedly violated privacy laws.
“Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly lied to the American people about privacy,” Wyden complained to the Willamette Week. “I think he ought to be held personally accountable, which is everything from financial fines to – and let me underline this – the possibility of a prison term. Because he hurt a lot of people.”
Wyden justified the suggested punishment by likening the crime to offenses committed by those who work in the finance industry.
“There is precedent for this: in financial services: if the CEO and the executives lie about the financials, they can be held personally accountable,” Wyden argued.
Wyden put out a draft bill last year to penalize executives who mishandle user data with up to 10 to 20 years in prison. The Oregon senator has been one of the central figures in Washington D.C. leading the effort to enhance federal regulation of big tech. In April, Wyden requested that the Federal Trade Commission hold Zuckerberg “individually accountable” for “repeated violations of Americans’ privacy.”
“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 these continued violations,” Wyden wrote in a letter to the agency.
While Zuckerberg avoided jail time, Facebook was slapped with a $5 billion fine for its mishandling of consumer data, the largest fine ever handed down to a tech company from a federal agency. The Securities and Exchange Commission also levied a $100 million fine on the company earlier this year for misleading investors over the risks of misusing users’ data.
Facebook’s scrutiny comes as policymakers in D.C. and around the world are trying to catch up with the rapid progress being made in Silicone Valley, with giant tech companies wielding considerable power over important sectors of the economy and government functions such as influence in elections.
States have also recently taken interest into investigating big tech’s influence. More than half of U.S. state attorneys general are preparing to launch an investigation into Google for potential violations of antitrust laws, mirroring an investigation currently underway by the U.S. Department of Justice targeting Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.