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 MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections MORE (D-Mass.), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyGovernment regulation of social media would kill the internet — and free speech Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech Twitter unlocks McConnell's campaign account after GOP boycott 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 ZuckerbergFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach Social media never intended to be in the news business — but just wait till AI takes over Facebook exploring deals with media outlets for news section: report 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.”