Bipartisan pair of Senators warn FTC against slap on the wrist for Facebook

Bipartisan pair of Senators warn FTC against slap on the wrist for Facebook
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A bipartisan pair of senators is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to wrap up its long-running investigation into Facebook by imposing tight restrictions on its handling of user data and by holding the company’s leaders accountable for a string of privacy scandals.

Two of the company’s biggest critics in Congress, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names McConnell: Trump shouldn't veto defense bill over renaming Confederate bases Trump warns of defense bill veto over military base renaming amendment MORE (R-Mo.), sent a letter to the FTC on Monday arguing that the agency should go beyond just imposing a fine — even a record multibillion-dollar one — in order to reign in the social media giant.

“The public is rightly asking whether Facebook is too big to be held accountable,” the lawmakers wrote. “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.”

Both Facebook and the FTC declined to comment on the letter.

Facebook told investors last month that it expects to pay as much as $5 billion in penalties to the FTC to settle a privacy probe that was launched last year after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a right-wing political consulting agency, obtained data on millions of Facebook users without their knowledge.

Several media outlets have also reported that the two sides are exploring a settlement that would also impose greater oversight of Facebook by requiring the company to establish privacy compliance officials. The talks could reportedly conclude as early as this week.

Lawmakers like Hawley and Blumenthal have grown increasingly frustrated with Facebook over the mounting scandals and the lack of progress from the FTC. The two argued that it’s time for regulators to impose sweeping constraints on Facebook and even potentially hold individual executives, including CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Facebook to launch Fourth of July voter registration drive Hillicon Valley: Facebook claims it 'does not profit from hate' in open letter | Analysis finds most of Facebook's top advertisers have not joined boycott | Research finds Uighurs targeted by Chinese spyware as part of surveillance campaign MORE, accountable.

“As important as remedies on Facebook as a company are, the FTC should impose tough accountability measures and penalties for individual executives and management responsible for violations of the consent order and for privacy failures,” Hawley and Blumenthal wrote. “Personal responsibility must be recognized from the top of the corporate board down to the product development teams.”

“The Facebook investigation will be a defining moment for the Commission,” they added. “It must be seen as a strong protector of consumer privacy and begin to set out a new era of enforcement, or it will not be taken as a credible enforcer. Action is overdue.”

FTC Chairman Joseph Simons is expected to testify before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday.