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Facebook paid US$7.3m for Mark Zuckerberg’s security last year in light of ‘specific threats’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 1:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 10:53pm

Facebook increased its spending on security for Mark Zuckerberg by 50 per cent last year, the company has disclosed, paying more than US$7.3million to protect its top executive.

The security funds were required “due to specific threats to his safety arising directly as a result of his position as our founder, chairman, and CEO,” the under-fire social media company said in a new filing to US regulators.

Facebook also said it spent more than US$1.5million on Zuckerberg’s travel aboard private jets in 2017, meaning that in all the company has spent about US$20million on security and private planes for Zuckerberg since 2015.

Security measures at Zuckerberg’s home in California are paid for by the company, according to the filing, as well as bodyguards who accompany the 33-year-old on his travels outside Facebook’s headquarters.

“We require these security measures for the company’s benefit because of the importance of Mr Zuckerberg to Facebook, and we believe that the costs of this overall security programme are appropriate and necessary,” the company said.

Zuckerberg has come under sharp criticism for his company’s role in the spread of disinformation and political propaganda online. Last week he faced 10 hours of questions from US congressional committees but escaped largely unscathed.

The hearings were prompted by the disclosure that tens of millions of Facebook users had their data harvested by a researcher working with Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy hired by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that Zuckerberg continued to take a token US$1 annual salary for his work at Facebook, which he founded as a student at Harvard University.

Zuckerberg’s fortune, which fluctuates with Facebook’s stock price, has recently totalled about US$70billion. He consistently appears in lists of the world’s top 10 richest people.

About US$2.7million was spent in 2017 on security for Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, according to the company.

Sandberg, who has assisted Zuckerberg on an apology tour since news broke of the exploitation of users’ data, received a total pay package last year of more than US$22.5million in salary, bonuses and company stock.

Facebook said in the filing that the spending totals cited for Zuckerberg’s use of private planes “include passenger fees, fuel, crew, and catering costs”.

Zuckerberg raised alarms last week by stating during the congressional hearings that Facebook collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook,” apparently for security reasons.

No further information was offered on this disclosure, prompting calls from privacy campaigners for Facebook to explain how it gathers data on non-users and what information is retained by the company.

Zuckerberg also warned last week of an online propaganda “arms race” with Russia and said that fighting interference in elections around the world was now his top priority as Facebook’s boss.

Earlier this month the company said it had discovered and removed 273 accounts and pages that were being run on its platforms by the so-called internet Research Agency (IRA), a notorious Russian government “troll farm”.