Facebook has faced a lot of heat for its poor privacy practices. In February, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began negotiating a multi-billion dollar fine with Facebook, due to Cambridge Analytica and the lack of privacy practices following it.
There was a lot of hype around the FTC exploring a fine ranging from $3-$5 billion because that would set a record. But last month, Facebook’s first-quarter earnings for 2019 revealed that the company had already set aside $3 billion in anticipation of the fine.
Now, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) are calling on the FTC to do more. On Monday, in a letter sent to the FTC, the two senators made their feelings clear by calling the expected settlement a “bargain.”
Blumenthal and Hawley are also looking for long-term consequences for Facebook. The letter urged the FTC “to act swiftly to conclude its investigation of Facebook and to move to compel sweeping changes to end the social network’s pattern of misuse and abuse of personal data.”
The two went on to write:
“The Facebook consent decree violations have been blatant and brazen, an offensive defiance that adds insult to injury…The FTC must set a resounding precedent that is heard by Facebook and any other tech company that disregards the law in a rapacious quest for growth. The Commission should pursue deterrent monetary penalties and impose forceful accountability measures on Facebook, including limits on the use of consumer data, managerial responsibility for violations, and other structural remedies to stop further breaches of consumer trust.”
It makes sense that the senators are pushing the FTC to do more than hit Facebook with a fine. After setting aside money for the fine, Facebook still profited $2.4 billion in its first quarter. Many are worried that with just a fine, Facebook will pay and go on about business as usual.
Facebook’s privacy violations are no small thing. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was most notable because the personal data of millions was harvested and used for political purposes without their consent.
However, seventeen children’s advocacy organizations recently wrote their own letter to the FTC, citing concern over possible Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) violations.
“Facebook’s scamming of children is not only unethical and reprehensible—it’s likely a violation of consumer protection laws. Time and time again, we see that Facebook plays by its own rules regardless of the cost to children, families and society. We urge the FTC to hold Facebook accountable,” Josh Golin — executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood — said, according to Adweek.
Frustrations with Facebook as a company have clearly been mounting for some time. However, Sens. Blumenthal and Hawley are also looking to hold employees who knowingly broke the law responsible — including Mark Zuckerberg.
The two wrote: “the FTC considered naming Mark Zuckerberg in its previous consent order but ultimately declined to do so. If the FTC finds that any Facebook executive knowingly broke the consent order or violated the law, it must name them in any further action.”