Too Big To Care?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Friday endorsed a $5 billion settlement with Facebook for its violations of privacy of its users. The proposal now goes to the Justice Dept. for final approval. In addition to the fine, the settlement is expected to require Facebook to implement new measures to protect user’s personal information.

The proposed settlement comes after Facebook sold massive amounts of personal information during the last two election cycles. In 2017, Facebook acknowledged that a personality-prediction app it developed had been sold to several analytics firms. And note that wording— “sold”, so it was a conscious decision not an accident.

The investigation came, in part, from charges that Facebook violated a settlement from 2012 where the company promised to better protect use privacy and to implement new practices to do so more effectively. Over the last two years, Congress has held multiple hearings on privacy breaches, as well.

Facebook has become one of the largest companies in the US, indeed the world. Mark Zuckerburg and Sheryl Sandberg, top executives of Facebook, have become widely known celebrities as Facebook has grown in popular culture. Yet privacy issues have been a concern for a decade. Reports of problems are so frequent and widespread that it’s easy to come to the conclusion that they see themselves-both individually and as a company- as so big that they don’t have to worry.

Even the proposed $5 billion settlement is too small, some argue, and the FTC was divided in its endorsement. In the first quarter of the year, Facebook made just over $5 billion. So the years of privacy problems , and the fact that Facebook is a repeat offender, will result in less than one quarter’s profit if the settlement is approved.

Thinking Man would agree that the proposed settlement IS too small. It would be a safe bet that Facebook will give personal privacy violations every bit of the priority it did in 2012 and Facebook users will have these problems again.

 

On a related note, some lawmakers have called for investigations into Facebook’s market power and if it violates anti-trust laws. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has called for the company to be broken up and that message was recently reinforced by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

When you are so big that even after paying fines for your illegal actions you still make billions of dollars, then you are likely too big.

 

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