$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.


Trump Twitter photo attack backfires as Pelosi owns it

Updated 17 October 2019

Trump Twitter photo attack backfires as Pelosi owns it

  • Trump's Pelosi tweet has being used as a celebration of the Speaker
  • Celebrities who have rebuked the president for the tweet have included Mia Farrow

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s Twitter attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following an acrimonious White House meeting appears to have backfired spectacularly.
Trump tweeted a picture of the encounter Wednesday showing a standing Pelosi pointing at the president while he and everyone else in the room was seated, with the caption “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!“


However, far from being upset at the picture, Pelosi posted it as her Twitter banner, and her supporters said it showed her literally standing up to Trump.
“Can a woman beat Donald Trump? Yes. Speaker Pelosi does it every day,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said as she retweeted the picture.
“Thanks for the new cover photo @realDonaldTrump!,” tweeted Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill.

Others pointed out that several members of Trump’s cabinet looked as if they would rather be somewhere else.
“The men on your right reflect the embarrassment we all feel,” tweeted actress Mia Farrow.
Pelosi has previously gone viral with her apparent trolling of Trump, with her slow clapping of his last State of the Union speech becoming an instant meme.
After leaving the White House meeting, told the press she prayed for the president and his family “all the time.”
“Now we have to pray for his health, because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president,” she said.
Hours later, Trump pressed suggested Pelosi had mental problems of her own.
“Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her ‘upstairs,’ or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country. She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!,” Trump tweeted.
One of the Democrats who attended the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said Trump launched into a “nasty diatribe” against them, while Pelosi said the president experienced a “meltdown.”
Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham rejected the Democratic version of events, saying the president had been “measured and decisive,” and that Pelosi walking out was “baffling but not surprising.”
The meeting was the first face-to-face encounter between Trump and Pelosi since her explosive September 24 statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry.