Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to appear in an Iranian court as part of a case against social network privacy breaches in the South of the country. He must appear to “defend himself and pay for possible losses.”
The 30 year old stands accused of mass privacy breaches. Iran’s censors previously banned WhatsApp – an application which was cited as the primary reason for the summons. The Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content said that its acquisition by Zuckerberg was a factor in its summons, according to the ISNA news agency.
“According to the court's ruling, the Zionist director of the company of Facebook, or his official attorney must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses,” said Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, an Iranian internet official.
The judge also ordered the two apps blocked.
In April, when Facebook acquired WhatsApp, the US Federal Trade Commission issued a warning to both companies to maintain privacy controls.
However, users remained concerned over the amount of information being added to Facebook's database through the acquisition, such as phone numbers that users may have been apprehensive about displaying on their online profiles.
“If the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor these promises, both companies could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act,” the FTC cautioned.
It is unlikely Zuckerberg will heed the summons. There is no extradition treaty in place between Iran and the US. Additionally, Iran remains under international sanctions because of disputed nuclear programs. US citizens are experiencing some problems gaining travel visas to the country.
Tehran sometimes filters social networking websites such as Twitter or Facebook. Moderate Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has been negotiating a loosening of internet restrictions with a conservative judiciary.
Last week, in a statement reported by the country’s official IRNA news agency, Rouhani said:
“We ought to see (the internet) as an opportunity. We must recognize our citizens' right to connect to the World Wide Web.”
His predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad routinely imprisoned bloggers.
Internet use in the country remains high, suggesting that its populace is utilizing proxy servers to bypass the controls.