Iran Summons Mark Zuckerberg to Court Over Privacy

An Iranian judge ordered Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to court over concerns that his company’s applications are violating users’ privacy.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote at the Facebook f8 conference on April 30, 2014 in San Francisco. The 30-year-old billionaire was summoned to an Iranian court this week over complaints that Facebook-owned apps Instagram and WhatsApp violate user privacy. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan).

The ruling orders the 30-year-old billionaire to answer complaints filed in the southern province of Fars citing breaches of privacy from Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp, the Iranian student-run news agency ISNA reported Tuesday.

An official with the paramilitary Basij force said the judge also ordered the two social media services be blocked.

“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, referring to Zuckerberg’s Jewish background, according to the Economic Times.

Zuckerberg was raised as Jewish by his family in New York, but identifies as an atheist.

Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and earlier this year snagged WhatsApp — the largest messaging service in the world — for $19 billion. A separate Iranian court ordered last week that Instagram be blocked over privacy concerns, but users in the capital city of Tehran could still access both applications on Tuesday, Sky News reported.

The Zuckerberg summons is the most recent example of the escalating struggle between self-proclaimed moderate Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s push for to increased Internet freedoms and demands by conservative judges for tighter controls.

Young Iranians turn to these type of Internet apps in order to bypass an official ban on Western cultural products, and Tehran occasionally filters popular websites such as Twitter and Facebook, but tech-savvy users employ proxy servers and other workarounds to get past the controls.

It is unlikely Zuckerberg will appear in the Iranian court since the United States and Iran do not have an extradition treaty, and similar rulings for U.S. citizens to answer to foreign courts have been ignored.

Rouhani, in remarks that challenge hardliners who have stepped up measures to censor the Web, said earlier this month that Iran should embrace the Internet rather than see it as a threat, and use “smart filtering” to weed out immoral content, according to the Economic Times.

(H/T: Sky News)

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