Nepal | July 05, 2020

US regulators under scrutiny as they look to punish Facebook

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Share Now:
Federal Trade Commission

Federal Trade Commission building in Washington as taken on January 28, 2015. Photo: AP/File

WASHINGTON: Federal privacy regulators are under scrutiny in Congress as they negotiate a record fine with Facebook to punish the company for alleged violations of its users’ privacy.

The Federal Trade Commission is considering a rare action holding CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook’s alleged failure to honour a 2011 agreement over privacy lapses. The agency also may limit how the giant social network targets advertising to its massive user base — potentially making the action far more than a regulatory slap on the wrist.

Beyond a fine expected to run as high as $5 billion, comprehensive action by the FTC could mark a watershed in federal action against the tech industry in the name of consumer privacy.

FTC Chairman Joseph Simons and his four fellow commission members are coming before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection at a hearing Wednesday. Simons, appointed by President Donald Trump in October 2017, is an expert in antitrust law who headed the FTC’s competition division under President George W Bush.

By usual practice, the FTC — an independent agency — is split 3-2 between Republican and Democratic members. Simons has advocated tougher enforcement action against tech companies and must obtain the agreement of at least two other commissioners for any action on Facebook.

Lawmakers have started work on a new national privacy law that could sharply curtail the ability of the biggest tech companies to collect and make money off people’s personal data. The role of the FTC as an enforcer of privacy protections is a key issue in the debate over the legislation. Consumer privacy advocates and Democratic lawmakers, saying the agency lacks teeth, have pushed for changing the law to expand its powers and funding to police privacy.

The FTC doesn’t have the authority, for example, to levy civil money penalties for first violations for most unfair or deceptive practices. It can only issue orders halting the conduct, as it did with Facebook in 2011.

The agency would be expected to write new privacy rules should Congress pass a new law.

Behind the momentum for a new law is rising concern over a string of scandals and the compromise of private data held by Facebook, Google and other tech giants that have reaped riches by aggregating consumer information. The industry has traditionally been lightly regulated and has resisted closer oversight as a threat to its culture of free-wheeling innovation.

Republicans have generally opposed an expansion of federal authority, but in the wake of the Facebook and other privacy scandals, some have taken a more open view toward the FTC’s powers and funding. Some business groups are also proposing an expanded role in privacy protection for the FTC.

The 2011 consent decree with the FTC bound Facebook to a 20-year privacy commitment. Violations could subject the company to fines of $41,484 per violation per user per day. The agreement requires that Facebook users give “affirmative express consent” any time that data they haven’t made public is shared with a third party.

The agency started investigating Facebook’s privacy practices more than a year ago after reports surfaced that the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent.

Lawmakers of both parties are pressuring the FTC to act decisively against Facebook in light of alleged failure to live up to that commitment.

The agency should quickly complete its investigation and “compel sweeping changes to end the social network’s pattern of misuse and abuse of personal data,” Republican Sen Josh Hawley of Missouri and Sen Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a letter Monday to Simons. Both are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The Facebook consent-decree violations have been blatant and brazen, offensive defiance that adds insult to injury,” they wrote. They called the $3 billion to $5 billion fine anticipated by Facebook “a bargain” for the company that would make the FTC look like “traffic police handing out speeding tickets to companies profiting off breaking the law.”

“Fines alone are insufficient,” Hawley and Blumenthal said. “Far-reaching reforms must finally hold Facebook accountable to consumers.”


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Locusts devour crops on 1,100 hectares

KATHMANDU, JULY 3 Desert locusts have damaged crops cultivated on 1,100 hectares of land across the country. According to the Locusts Information Centre, eight districts have reported damage caused by locusts till date. Of them, Dang is the worst hit and Palpa the least. The locusts devoure Read More...

World Bank elevates Nepal to ‘lower middle income economy’

Country saw its GNI per capita rise to $1,090 in 2019, but economists says it doesn’t mean much in terms of development KATHMANDU, JULY 3 Nepal is now officially a lower-middle income country, an upgrade from its previous status as low income nation, according to the World Bank’s latest coun Read More...

Oli, Dahal in bid to save NCP unity

If the two co-chairs fail to act as per the spirit of the party unity document, maintaining party unity will be difficult  - NCP leader Mani Thapa KATHMANDU, JULY 3 Co-chairs of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) — Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli — held talks for thr Read More...

Kailali's Bhajani Municipality, Joshipur Rural Municipality inundated

KAILALI, JULY 3 Bhajani and Joshipur of Kailali have been inundated after floodwaters gushed into the settlements. According to eyewitnesses, many houses in Wards 2, 3, 6 and 8 of Bhajani Municipality have been inundated. Local Ganga Chaudhary said floodwaters from local Kandra and Kadha ri Read More...

Ministry develops guidelines for rehab centres

KATHMANDU, JULY 3 The Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens has developed guidelines for operation of rehabilitation centres to ensure that vulnerable persons at the centres do not contract COVID-19. MoWCSC said the new guidelines would be effective until Nepal was declared coronavir Read More...

Nepali Congress Ram Chandra Paudel

Country pushed into crisis: Paudel

DAMAULI, JULY 3 Senior Nepali Congress leader Ramchandra Paudel said sudden prorogation of the Parliament was unfortunate for the nation. “At a time when the nation is fighting a deadly disease, the decision to prorogue the Parliament has pushed the country further into the crisis,” said t Read More...

Holding centre in Khotang

KHOTANG, JULY 3 A 10-bed holding centre has been established in Diktel, the district headquarters of Khotang, for returnees. According to Chief District Officer and District COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre coordinator Shaligram Sharma Poudel, Nepali Army personnel and Red Cross staff jointly Read More...

Visit Nepal 2020 mascot, yeti

Former Visit Nepal secretariat seeks more budget from Tourism Ministry

KATHMANDU, JULY 3 Even after the government has scrapped the secretariat of the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, the secretariat has submitted more unpaid bills to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA). Addressing a press meet today to unveil the ministry’s work progress dur Read More...