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Facebook’s $5-billion fine for privacy scandals too low, Democrats complain

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July 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reportedly voted to approve a $5-billion settlement with Facebook over the social media giant’s breaches of user privacy starting with last year’s notorious Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The Trump administration has not announced the deal, but The Verge reports that the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post have confirmed several details. The FTC’s three Republican commissioners voted for the settlement, while the two Democrats opposed it. It’s not yet known what Facebook will have to do beyond paying the money, but the settlement now moves to the Justice Department for review. 

If finalized, the fine will be the largest ever doled out by the FTC, though it is not expected to significantly impact Facebook.

The fine is in response to a string of scandals regarding Facebook’s handling of user data, the most notorious of which came last year, when Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie testified that the analytics company was able to acquire the personal data of more than 50 million Facebook users without their consent and that Facebook apps on users’ devices had the capability to “pull audio” from users’ environments to refine their ad targeting.

That scandal followed former Obama for America media director Carol Davidsen’s admission that Facebook allowed the former president’s campaign to take users’ personal information because the company supported him and was followed by various additional similar scandals.

Breitbart reports that several lawmakers who have been critical of the social media giant are unimpressed with the sum. 

“The FTC just gave Facebook a Christmas present five months early,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said. “It’s very disappointing that such an enormously powerful company that engaged in such serious misconduct is getting a slap on the wrist. This fine is a fraction of Facebook’s annual revenue. It won’t make them think twice about their responsibility to protect user data.”

“Even a fine in the billions is simply a write-down for the company, and large penalties have done little to deter large tech firms,” Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Dick Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to the commission in May. “If the FTC is seen as traffic police handing out speeding tickets to companies profiting off breaking the law, then Facebook and other will continue to push the boundaries.”

Because it demonstrates the power at the company’s disposal, Facebook’s privacy record further intensifies conservative fears over its political bias and censorship practices. In March, a Project Veritas investigation detailed how Facebook “deboosts” traffic to several mainstream conservative sites, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently admitted that the company blocked foreign pro-life ads ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum, despite no Irish laws or state requests compelling the company to do so.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai told Congress last month that he considers “unregulated Silicon Valley tech giants” today’s “greatest threat to a free and open internet.” While conservatives are divided on what the proper remedy is, Sen. Hawley has proposed legislation that would require social media platforms to certify their political neutrality with the FCC if they want to keep their congressionally granted immunity from legal liability for what they allow users to post.

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