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Privacy group sues FTC, says $5 billion Facebook fine is chump change

Earlier this week Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy violations to the tune of $5 billion, the largest fine in the history of the FTC. While certainly huge, one privacy group thinks that the $5 billion fine isn’t quite enough.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, known as EPIC, filed a lawsuit against the FTC regarding the settlement on Friday, saying that it is “insufficient to address the concerns originally identified by EPIC and the consumer coalition, as well as those findings established by the Commission.”

The group wants the FTC to “require Facebook to restore the privacy settings users had in 2009; give users access to all of the data that Facebook keeps about them; stop making facial recognition profiles without users’ consent; make the results of the government privacy audits public; and stop secretly tracking users across the web.”

It also wants the amount of the fine to be increased. While $5 billion is a large amount, it is a small penalty for the $571 billion company.

“The proposed order wipes Facebook’s slate clean without Facebook even having to admit guilt for its privacy violations,” reads the group’s complaint to the FTC.

“EPIC supports the findings in the FTC Complaint and supports, in part, the directives contained in the Consent Order. The Order makes clear that companies should not engage in unfair and deceptive trade practices, particularly in the collection and use of personal data. However, the proposed Order is insufficient to address the concerns originally identified by EPIC and the consumer coalition, as well as those findings established by the Commission.”

Many other critics also felt the settlement didn’t go far enough. The two Democrats on the commission voted against it — with and one commission, Rohit Chopra, criticized it for not holding senior executives like CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Sheryl Sandberg personally accountable for the violations.

2. Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and other executives get blanket immunity for their role in the violations. This is wrong and sets a terrible precedent. The law doesn’t give them a special exemption.

— Rohit Chopra (@chopraftc) July 24, 2019

In addition to the $5 billion fine, the FTC is requiring Facebook to submit to new restrictions as well as a modified corporate structure that will hold the company accountable for decisions it makes about its user’s privacy.

While it certainly could have been higher, the $5 billion fine is almost 20 times higher than the largest privacy or data security penalty ever imposed worldwide, says the FTC and is one of the largest penalties ever assessed by the U.S. government for any violation.

Emily Price
Emily is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Her book "Productivity Hacks: 500+ Easy Ways to Accomplish More at…
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