Public Knowledge Warns $5 Billion FTC Facebook Settlement Insufficient to Protect Consumers

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Today, the Federal Trade Commission released details of its $5 billion settlement with Facebook over the company’s repeated violations of a 2012 consent decree, which includes privacy violations such as the Cambridge Analytica incident.

Under the settlement, Facebook has agreed to pay $5 billion, create a privacy committee on Facebook’s board, and conduct a privacy review. The FTC alleges that Facebook repeatedly violated the 2012 order and that the improper data collection and misuse by Cambridge Analytica was just a part of a larger problem. The FTC also alleged that Facebook gave improper notice to consumers that their photos shared on Facebook would be subject to Facebook’s facial recognition technology. Public Knowledge considers this settlement insufficient to prevent future privacy violations by Facebook.

The following statement may be attributed to Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“Today we see the result of over a year of investigation and negotiation by the FTC. It is frustrating that the FTC was not able to achieve more significant changes to Facebook’s behavior going forward. Facebook users cannot count on being protected as a result of this settlement.

“Under this settlement, Facebook does not have to meaningfully change how it collects and uses your data. Facebook retains complete control over when to share your data outside of Facebook, as long as the company complies with the privacy policy that it gets to write. The settlement also protects Facebook from further enforcement on other potential violations that we may not even know exist. The settlement does not impose any pro-competition terms, such as interoperability requirements or limiting data-sharing between Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp to the same terms used with third-parties so that competitors can compete fairly. 

“While the settlement does require additional auditing processes and reporting requirements as well as a very large fine, the settlement is weak given the repeated violations and the severity of the harm. We must pass new and more effective privacy laws, as well as broader platform regulation aimed at improving competition in the sector so that consumers can more easily switch to an alternative product if they are not happy.”

For more information on how the FTC should regulate Facebook, view our blog post, “A Real Remedy the FTC Should Demand of Facebook.” You can also tell Congress to protect your personal information.

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