April 28, 2020
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge Timothy Kelly approved a deal reached last summer whereby Facebook will pay a $5 billion fine to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook will also be restricted in some of its business decisions and will be subject to ongoing oversight. Facebook chief privacy officer for product Michel Protti noted that the agreement “has already brought fundamental changes to our company.”
CNET reports Protti added that the settlement has also created “advances in how we protect people’s privacy beyond anything we’ve done before.” “Most of all, it brings a new level of accountability and ensures that privacy is everyone’s responsibility at Facebook,” he said.
Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct U.K. political consulting firm that worked on President Trump’s campaign, scraped the data of up to 87 million Facebook users. The settlement includes the proviso that Facebook “create an independent privacy committee” and “build more privacy protections into its platforms.” Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg must also “certify the company’s behavior.”
FTC chair Joe Simons noted that, “the conduct relief included in this settlement will require Facebook to consider privacy at every stage of its operations and provide substantially more transparency and accountability for its executives’ privacy-related decisions.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that Kelly’s decision overruled objections “that the deal didn’t adequately punish” Facebook. It notes that, “privacy advocates argued [the deal] brushed aside some of Facebook’s illegal actions and pressed the court to reconsider it.”
Kelly, whose approval of the deal was expected, called Facebook’s “legal violations stunning” in his April 23 written opinion, and said privacy advocates’ complaints “call into question the adequacy of laws governing how technology companies that collect and monetize Americans’ personal information must treat that information.” But he deferred to the FTC, which declared it was pleased with the decision.
The Hill reports that the privacy advocates opposing the settlement included Public Citizen, Common Sense Media and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. With regard to laws governing technology companies, Kelly, a Trump appointee, wrote that “those concerns are largely for Congress; they are not relevant here.”