$5bn US fine set for Facebook on privacy probe

Some Facebook critics have argued the company should face tougher sanctions. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 July 2019

$5bn US fine set for Facebook on privacy probe

  • It would be the largest penalty ever imposed by the US Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations
  • The deal will likely include restrictions on how Facebook is able to use personal data

WASHINGTON: US regulators have approved a $5 billion penalty to be levied on Facebook to settle a probe into the social network’s privacy and data protection lapses, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The newspaper said the Federal Trade Commission approved the settlement in a 3-2 vote, with the two Democratic members of the consumer protection agency dissenting.
According to the report, the deal, which would be the largest penalty ever imposed by the FTC for privacy violations, still needs approval from the Justice Department before it is finalized.
Although details have not yet been released, the deal will likely include restrictions on how Facebook is able to use personal data.
Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge thinks it is unlikely the restrictions will be overly harsh.
“We don’t yet know key aspects of the settlement: whether Facebook must make any changes to its business model or practices as a result,” said Charlotte Slaiman, the group’s Competition Policy Counsel.
“By itself, this fine will not be sufficient to change Facebook’s behavior.”
The outlook was more optimistic at the Center for Democracy and Technology, whose president Nuala O’Connor said the fine underscored the importance of “data stewardship” in the digital age.
“The FTC has put all companies on notice that they must safeguard personal information,” O’Connor said.
Facebook did not immediately respond to an AFP query on the agreement.
The FTC announced last year it reopened its investigation into a 2011 privacy settlement with Facebook after revelations that personal data on tens of millions of users was hijacked by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which was working on the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.
Facebook has also faced questions about whether it improperly shared user data with business partners in violation of the earlier settlement.
The leading social network with more than two billion users worldwide has also been facing inquiries on privacy from authorities in US states and regulators around the world.
The settlement would be in line with Facebook’s estimate earlier this year when it said it expected to pay $3 billion to $5 billion for legal settlements on “user data practices.”
The fine is unlikely to hurt Facebook, which logged a profit of $2.4 billion on revenue that climbed 26 percent to $15.1 billion in the first three months of this year.
Facebook’s stock value increased 1.8 percent after the fine was announced, closing at nearly $205, the highest it has been all year.
Some Facebook critics have argued the company should face tougher sanctions including monitoring of its data practices, or that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg should be personally liable for penalties.
Faced with criticism, Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, called on governments to do more to regulate social networks, instead of leaving the work to companies.
“It’s not for private companies, however big or small, to come up with those rules. It is for democratic politicians in the democratic world to do so,” Clegg said in a June 24 interview with the BBC.
But there are increasing calls to dismantle the massive social network.
In May, one of Facebook’s co-founders called for the social media behemoth to be broken up, warning that Zuckerberg had become far too powerful.
“It’s time to break up Facebook,” said Chris Hughes in an editorial for The New York Times, saying it had become necessary to separate the social network from Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp services.
Zuckerberg’s “focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” said Hughes.


Hosni Mubarak reminisces about 1973 war in video message

Updated 33 min 28 sec ago

Hosni Mubarak reminisces about 1973 war in video message

  • Former Egyptian president shares his memories on 46th anniversary of conflict
  • YouTube video racks almost 150,000 views in four hours and channel attracts 11,000 subscribers

RIYADH: The first video posted by “Mubarak’s Archive,” a YouTube channel launched in the name of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, was viewed almost than 150,000 times within four hours of being uploaded on Tuesday night. The channel attracted 11,000 subscribers in that time.

During the 26-minute video, Mubarak talked about the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War and praised the Egyptian Air Force for the role it had played. He was the commander of the Air Force and deputy minister of defense at the time of the three-week conflict.

“The Egyptian Air Force fully carried out its duties in striking the enemy’s operations center in the October 1973 War,” he said.

At the start of the video, Mubarak said: “To begin, I have to talk about late President Anwar Sadat, who took the decision to go to war. He was a very brave and courageous man. Today as we celebrate the Oct. 6 (1973) war victory, the same date he was killed (by assassins in 1981), I have to salute him.”

The former president also talked about the June 1967 Six-Day War, which he argued was not actually a war.

“We were hit without prior notice and without having a plan,” he said. “I believe I was in an operation center in mid-May and I returned to the airport where they informed me that there was a state of emergency had been announced.

“A commissioner from the General Command came on June 3 and said that there was a political demonstration and we would send troops to Sinai. The division’s leader had no idea who was getting in and out.”

Mubarak’s son Alaa had earlier posted a message to his Twitter account announcing the video featuring his father. “President Mubarak remembers some October War memories…tonight at 8.30 p.m,” he wrote.

Mubarak, who was deposed following an uprising in 2011 after almost 30 years as Egyptian President, was last seen publicly on December 26, 2018, when he testified at the trial of his ousted successor, Mohammed Morsi, and others.