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Jul 29 2019

Facebook lost control of our data. And will pay for it.

A Cnet article brings us one of the topics of the moment – data security. Facebook’s scandals regarding users’ privacy are all over the news, and now it looks like the company won’t get away without paying a huge fine of 5 billion dollars.

ImageRecently the Federal Trade Commission announced that “Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine over privacy violations and its failure to inform tens of millions of users about a data leak that happened years ago. The fine is the largest the US regulator has levied against a tech company.”

The Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now obligated to certify that the company is taking measures to protect user privacy. A false statement could potentially expose the company to penalties. Zuckerberg's control over privacy decisions has also been removed by the order, by creating an independent privacy committee of the company's board of directors. 

"Despite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how their personal information is shared, Facebook undermined consumers' choices," said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a release. "The relief is designed not only to punish future violations but, more importantly, to change Facebook's entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations."

This fine – which is in addition to a $100 million settlement with the US Securities Exchange Commission – is the first significant punishment Facebook has received for the several privacy and security scandals that have surrounded the company for more than a year. Issues like the spread of fake news and improperly secured personal data, have prompted governments around the world to consider regulating social networks.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised in a statement that the social network would make "major structural changes" to how it builds products and conducts business: "We have a responsibility to protect people's privacy. We already work hard to live up to this responsibility, but now we're going to set a completely new standard for our industry" Zuckerberg wrote.

The FTC settlement could establish a big change in how governments deal with bad practice from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. “Over the years, harassers, trolls and propagandists have taken advantage of the sites, which often don't strictly enforce their own rules”.

Real efforts are being made globally to ensure privacy protections for citizens: “The EU has begun enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a sweeping law that requires companies to give people control over their data and to quickly inform them if data is mishandled. The UK, meanwhile, is considering new regulatory roles in government to safeguard internet users' interests and punish companies that don't. But none of them has yet taken on Facebook directly.”

"We will be more robust in ensuring that we identify, assess and mitigate privacy risk," wrote Facebook's Colin Stretch in a blog post. "We will adopt new approaches to more thoroughly document the decisions we make and monitor their impact. And we will introduce more technical controls to better automate privacy safeguards."

The US Department of Justice, which worked with the FTC, said it is committed to making sure Facebook and other social media companies don't mislead consumers about their personal information. "This settlement's historic penalty and compliance terms will benefit American consumers, and the Department expects Facebook to treat its privacy obligations with the utmost seriousness," said Jody Hunt, assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Civil Division, in a release.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also announced that it will fine Facebook $100 million as part of a settlement tied to a probe into the social network's handling of users' data. “The investor protection agency alleged that Facebook's public disclosures didn't offer sufficient warning that developers and other third parties may, in obtaining user data, have violated the social network's policies or failed to gain user permission.” 

Nuno Costa

 

About the Author:

Nuno Costa

Channel Business Development Associate

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