9 Reasons The Facebook FTC
$5 billion is a laugh
$5 billion may sound like a lot, but in this context it is simply not a meaningful amount. Leaving aside that Facebook at this point probably makes that in a month. It simply does not correspond to the harm done or rewards reaped. 9 Reasons The Facebook FTC…
It’s highly likely that Facebook’s “unjust enrichment,” made as a result of the forbidden. User data collection in which it engaged, is more than $5 billion. As Commissioner Rohit Chopra says in his dissenting statement. In other words, you shouldn’t be able to steal $100. Then pay a fine of $50 to get off the hook.
“The fact that Facebook’s stock value increased with the disclosure of a potential. Penalty may suggest that the market believes that a penalty at this level makes. A violation profitable,” wrote Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter in her own dissent.
The investigation was rushed and incomplete
No one likes it when serious investigations of wrongdoing (not that Facebook officially admits to any) drag on for too long, since in the meantime the wrongdoing may very well continue. But this case isn’t a simple one where Facebook may have violated one or two of the FTC’s prohibitions for a short period of time in 2014. The company ignored the government-ordered restrictions systematically for years, meriting an investigation on a similar scale. 9 Reasons The Facebook FTC…
Instead of getting deep into the questions of who was responsible, how much money was made. Whether public statements were misleading, the extent of public harm. The investigators opted to quickly establish a pattern of violating behavior and slap the company with a nice round number. (Let’s hope the antitrust investigation announced today is a bit more thorough.)
The brevity and limitations of the investigation are evident from the fact that…
They didn’t grill any executives
“The Commissioners supporting this outcome do not cite a single deposition of Zuckerberg or any other Facebook officer or director,” writes Chopra. Although there may have been off-record conversations or letters from execs in response to questions sent by investigators, they did not put Zuckerberg or Sandberg or any other big players in the hot seat. Seems fundamental when the investigation alleges complicity at the highest levels, right?
You get immunity! And YOU get immunity!
It’s ordinary in settlements like to this to “release” companies from claims that they violated an agreement — like a plea bargain where you get probation and no record in exchange for a fine and community service. But the Facebook settlement gives both the company and its executives blanket immunity, not just for any violations the FTC has claimed, but for any violations it hasn’t claimed.
In other words, it’s giving Facebook a blank slate not only for violations it definitely did, but for any it might have secretly done between 2012 and 2018. “A release of this scope is unjustified by our investigation and unsupported by either precedent or sound public policy,” writes Slaughter. “I have not been able to find a single Commission order — certainly not one against a repeat offender — that contains a release as broad as this one,” concurs Chopra.
It’s extraordinary that a repeat offender that has shown a disdain for the FTC’s authority would get such comprehensive, top-to-bottom immunity. This isn’t just a plea bargain, it’s a plenary indulgence.
The oversight is toothless
Facebook must establish a Privacy Committee, Compliance Officer. An Independent Assessor to make sure that the rules it sets for itself are sufficient and being followed sufficiently. Unfortunately, what they do is a whole lot of reviewing, certifying, and briefing, and no doing.
The Compliance Officers sign off on the privacy program, to be sure. But they have few specific goals, like prevent this or ensure that. The Assessor also lacks authority, so if they decide the privacy program is not working. They simply register their complaint and wait for Facebook to justify itself.
The “independent” committee’s makeup will be highly affected by the powers that be at Facebook, which have enormous voting power and will be able to make it hard on any troublesome members. Even if they couldn’t, the committee has no power over management — it’s just another Facebook-issued stamp for Facebook-written paperwork.
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