Senators press FTC over 'woefully inadequate' Facebook settlement

Senators press FTC over 'woefully inadequate' Facebook settlement
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A bipartisan group of senators is pressing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about a reported $5 billion settlement with Facebook, raising concerns that the penalty is insufficient to hold the social media giant accountable for its privacy debacles.

Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyUS must act as journalists continue to be jailed in record numbers Warren proposes 'Blue New Deal' to protect oceans There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Mass.), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Hillicon Valley: Pentagon pushes back on Amazon lawsuit | Lawmakers dismiss Chinese threat to US tech companies | YouTube unveils new anti-harassment policy | Agencies get annual IT grades Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE (R-Mo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to the FTC on Tuesday following reports that the agency had approved the settlement last week with Republicans carrying a 3-2 party-line vote.

“The public expects the Commission to put consumers first and to take all necessary steps in your power to remedy Facebook’s privacy problems,” the senators wrote in their letter. “We are highly disappointed to learn that the Commission has apparently failed to reach a strong, bipartisan agreement, sending the wrong message to tech companies. This result would amount to abandonment of the Commission’s responsibility to serve American consumers and protect the public’s privacy.”

The three senators, and other Facebook critics in Congress, have argued that a large fine, even a record $5 billion one, would be insufficient to address privacy violations at such a large company.

The FTC and Facebook both declined to comment.

The investigation was launched more than a year ago, after news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal first broke, to determine whether Facebook had violated the terms of an earlier settlement with the FTC requiring the company to improve its privacy practices. 

The lawmakers on Tuesday sent a list of questions to the agency asking it to detail how it reached the figure and the other terms in the settlement. 

They asked whether Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergOverwhelming majority say social media companies have too much influence: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Facebook tells Trump administration it will not create messaging 'backdoor' for law enforcement MORE had been interviewed as part of the investigation and whether he or any other executives would be named in the FTC’s complaint. They also demanded to know whether Facebook would have to submit to restrictions on its data collection practices. 

“We believe that the reported settlement is woefully inadequate,” the senators wrote. “It is clear that a $5 billion fine alone is a far cry from the type of monetary figure that would alter the incentives and behavior of Facebook and its peers. We are concerned that the FTC has failed to impose strict structural reforms and managerial accountability that would put an end to Facebook’s privacy invasions.”