Emerging from a barrage of scandals, Facebook may soon agree to a 20 year government supervision of its privacy policies and practices. An ongoing investigation by the Federal Trade Commission will determine whether Facebook violated a 2011 agreement with the government in which it pledged to keep user data private. Unsurprisingly, Facebook claims that it didn’t.
In 2011 Facebook agreed to a consent decree under which it was to get permission from users before sharing their data with third parties. This included government audits every two years for 20 years to make sure the terms were being carried out.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal and other recent but long-brewing controversies prompted the FTC to investigate the social media giant once more, and the two entities have reportedly been in discussions for months to settle the probe. Facebook said last month that it had set aside expenses for an as-yet-unannounced $3-5 billion fine from the FTC, the largest ever levied against a US tech company. The record is currently being held by Google, who paid out $22.5 million in an FTC fine back in 2012.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (Dem), and Josh Hawley (Rep) wrote to the FTC stating that even a $5 billion civil penalty was not a strong enough punishment and that top officials, potentially including founder Mark Zuckerberg, should be held personally responsible. Facebook certainly isn’t hurting for cash despite its privacy violations, and surpassed its past earning estimates these last two quarters.
According to a source speaking to Reuters, a settlement could still be a month away, and could likely see another 20 year period of monitoring of Facebook by the FTC. Unless it involves more in-depth oversight than the 2011 agreement, it may not be enough to prevent more Cambridge Analytica style breaches from happening.
What do you think of regulating Facebook? Do the measures proposed by the FTC go far enough?