Details of Facebook Penalty Released by FTC

The FTC’s press release:

The $5 billion penalty against Facebook is the largest ever imposed on any company for violating consumers’ privacy and almost 20 times greater than the largest privacy or data security penalty ever imposed worldwide. It is one of the largest penalties ever assessed by the U.S. government for any violation.

The settlement order announced today also imposes unprecedented new restrictions on Facebook’s business operations and creates multiple channels of compliance. The order requires Facebook to restructure its approach to privacy from the corporate board-level down, and establishes strong new mechanisms to ensure that Facebook executives are accountable for the decisions they make about privacy, and that those decisions are subject to meaningful oversight.

The graphic the FTC uses to illustrate the scale of this fine is also an unintended acknowledgement that the $275 million fine levied against Equifax is pitiful.

Kurt Wagner and Sarah Frier, Bloomberg:

But the deal won’t do much to alter Facebook’s main business. The company will be able to make product decisions as it always has, and will also still be able to collect the same data from users. For the most part, Facebook will be able to continue targeting ads in the same way it does today.

Bryan Menegus, Gizmodo:

In what may be the most insulting paragraph of Stretch’s note, which Facebook published exactly when it knew news of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony would drown out any other news item, he writes, “the agreement will require a fundamental shift in the way we approach our work […] It will mark a sharper turn toward privacy, on a different scale than anything we’ve done in the past.”

I don’t know how Facebook approaches its work. What I do know is how it approaches its users — which is to incrementally, and more often after being caught doing something untoward — placate them with promises of fundamental changes in how it’s thinking about or implementing privacy; how it’s empowering us, the consumers, to control our privacy; and how privacy, privacy, privacy. Why would we trust Zuckerberg’s sign-off on quarterly data privacy assessments when he and his team have consistently published statements claiming Facebook will protect our privacy, which we can say in light of Cambridge Analytica turned out to be broadly untrue.

All of Facebook’s transgressions since 2012 have been conducted after they promised the FTC they would stop abusing users’ data without their knowledge. They kept doing that anyhow. But they’ll really stop this time — they promise.