April 30, 2019
Regulators have reached a tipping point with Facebook after years of half-measures regarding the social media giant’s security-related missteps. Now, regulators across four continents are attempting to reign in Facebook’s behavior. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission hasn’t come to a decisive conclusion regarding what constraints to implement, but the agency is looking to address a wide range of issues, including violations reported almost monthly, according to a source close to the investigation.
Last week, Facebook announced it expected to get hit with a $3 billion to $5 billion fine from the FTC related to violations of a privacy settlement from 2011, reports The New York Times. The FTC’s sweeping one-year investigation was set in motion last year following revelations of data misuse by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal data without their consent
Facebook and the FTC are still in talks to determine this particular settlement, which could potentially include stronger monitoring of privacy practices, strengthened security, greater restraints on how Facebook shares data with third parties, and more. The potential settlement would be seen as a “landmark privacy decision and a referendum on the nation’s ability to police the powers of Big Tech and protect consumers,” according to The New York Times.
Legal experts have weighed in and agree that the conditions of the settlement would have wide impact on the future of penalizing privacy violations and creating new privacy regulations in the U.S. and internationally.
“It will set the bar,” said former FTC head of consumer protection David Vladeck. “Once the FTC creates a consent order, it levels the playing field so that any other party that engages in the same behavior will have every expectation that the prior order will apply to them.”
Elsewhere, regulators in Britain, France, Germany, and Ireland are currently looking into Facebook’s practices, and governments across Australia, India, New Zealand and Singapore have already passed, or are considering, new restrictions on social media in general. In Ireland, as just one example, the Irish Data Protection Commission just started a new investigation into Facebook exposing user passwords.
“Under European privacy law, Facebook could be fined up to 4 percent of global revenue, or about $2.23 billion,” reports The New York Times.
All combined, these worldwide efforts are part of a movement to minimize the power of social media companies. According to former Obama administration State Department official Ben Scott, the global scrutiny represents “a massive wave of outrage that will crash straight into the central premise of the company’s business model.”