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FTC Will Fine Facebook $5 Billion for Privacy Violations as Antitrust Investigation Looms

— July 18, 2019

Facebook and its outrageously wealthy tech counterparts are also facing increased skepticism and harsher legislation.

As part of its recent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Facebook will pay a record-setting $5 billion fine for violating federal law and compromising consumer privacy.

The fine has been a long time coming. USA Today reports that Facebook was warning its possibility in the company’s first-quarter press release, writing, “The matter remains unresolved. We estimate that the range of the loss in this matter is $3.0 billion to $5.0 billion.”

The settlement was approved by the FTC earlier this week. USA Today says the final tally against Facebook was three to two, with commissioners casting their votes along party lines.

While the FTC has approved the agreement, the Justice Department will have to approve it.

According to USA Today, the terms aren’t just financial, either. The FTC’s investigation was sparked by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm with academic connections. C.A. developers created an app—called ‘This Is Your Digital Life’—which claimed users’ information would be used as part of an academic study.

However, ‘Digital Life’ users were asked to hand over information about their Facebook friends. The company wound up accessing the data of an estimated 87 million users, mostly from the United States.

Flag of the United States Federal Trade Commission; image by United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Deceptive debt collectors banned.
Flag of the United States Federal Trade Commission; image by United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Data was later sold to political advertising firms and campaigns, with consumer information used to create psychographic profiles and send out targeted ads.

Under its settlement with the FTC, Facebook will have to take a more proactive role in assuring the security of its users’ private data. Under the agreement’s terms, Facebook must document every decision involving consumer information before introducing new products. The company is also obligated to monitor applications provided and developed by third parties, ensuring they’re not improperly or illegally siphoning off data.

While USA Today and Fox have called the settlement a massive victory for the FTC and consumer advocates, other outlets have taken a more skeptical stance.

The New York Times, for instance, suggests the $5 billion fine “neither bruised [Facebook’s] bottom line nor severely restricted its ability to collect people’s data.”

However, that doesn’t mean the social media behemoth is escaping without consequence. An antitrust investigation is looming, and some state attorneys general have launched their own inquiries into the company.

Even President Donald Trump, says the Times, blasted social networks like Facebook as “dishonest” and fundamentally “crooked.”

And governments overseas have been just as proactive in restricting the influence of Silicon Company. Australia, Japan, India and Singapore—among a host of other nations—have passed their own rules restricting what kinds of information companies like Facebook can collect, as well as the ways in which they can use consumer data.

The Times notes that Facebook is pushing back against antitrust proposals in Australia. And in Canada, the company’s facing a protracted court battle, with Ottawa trying to force changes to Facebook’s data collection practices.

Here in the States, the Department of Justice is preparing an antitrust probe into Facebook. Similar actions may also be taken Apple, along with other massive, quasi-monopolistic companies—Amazon and Google and among them.4


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