Facebook to create privacy panel, pay $5bn to US to settle allegations

Facebook has been facing issues in data protection and privacy. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 July 2019

Facebook to create privacy panel, pay $5bn to US to settle allegations

  • As part of the settlement, Facebook will agree to create a board committee on privacy
  • It will also agree to new executive certifications that users’ privacy is being properly protected

WASHINGTON: The Federal Trade Commission is set to announce on Wednesday that Facebook Inc. has agreed to a sweeping settlement of significant allegations it mishandled user privacy and pay $5 billion, two people briefed on the matter said.
As part of the settlement, Facebook will agree to create a board committee on privacy and will agree to new executive certifications that users’ privacy is being properly protected, the people said.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will have to certify every three months that the company is properly safeguarding user privacy, a person briefed on the matter said.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the FTC will allege Facebook misled users about its handling of their phone numbers and its use of two-factor authentication as part of a wide-ranging complaint that accompanies a settlement ending the government’s privacy probe, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Separately, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to announce a related settlement with Facebook for around $100 million over allegations it failed to disclose risks to investors over its privacy practices. The Wall Street Journal reported the SEC settlement earlier.
The Post also reported the FTC also plans to allege Facebook provided insufficient information to about 30 million users about a facial recognition tool, an issue identified earlier by Consumer Reports.
The settlement comes amid growing concern among US policymakers about the privacy of online users and have sparked calls for new legal protections in Congress. Separately, the US Justice Department said late Tuesday it is launching a broad antitrust probe into the competitive practices of large tech companies like Facebook.
Two people briefed on the matter confirmed the Post report the FTC will not require Facebook to admit guilt as part of the settlement. The settlement will need to be approved by a federal judge and will contain other significant allegations of privacy lapses, the people said.
The fine will mark the largest civil penalty ever paid to the FTC.
The FTC and Facebook declined to comment.
The FTC confirmed in March 2018 it had opened an investigation into allegations Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The probe has focused on whether the data sharing violated a 2011 consent agreement between Facebook and the regulator and then widened to include other privacy allegations.
A person briefed on the matter said the phone number, facial recognition and two-factor authentication issues were not part of the initial Cambridge Analytica probe.
Some in Congress have criticized the reported $5 billion penalty, noting Facebook in 2018 had $55.8 billion in revenue and $22.1 billion in net income. Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, said last week the fine should be $50 billion.
While the deal resolves a major regulatory headache for Facebook, the Silicon Valley firm still faces further potential antitrust probes as the FTC and Justice Department undertake a wide-ranging review of competition among the biggest US tech companies. Facebook is also facing public criticism from President Donald Trump and others about its planned cryptocurrency Libra over concerns about privacy and money laundering.
The Cambridge Analytica missteps, as well as anger over hate speech and misinformation on its platform, have prompted calls from people ranging from presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren to a Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, for the government to force the social media giant to sell Instagram, which it bought in 2012, and WhatsApp, purchased in 2014.
But the company’s core business has proven resilient, as Facebook blew past earnings estimates in the past two quarters. Facebook is set to report earnings on Wednesday.


India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

Updated 13 December 2019

India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

  • Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants
  • On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on

GUWAHATI: Internet access was cut in India’s northeastern city of Guwahati on Friday as thousands gathered for fresh protests against a new citizenship law, a day after police shot dead two demonstrators.
Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and which other critics say is anti-Muslim.
On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on, with residents hurrying out to buy essentials.
No fresh violence was reported but Guwahati and other areas remained littered from the detritus of recent days, with some roads blocked by fallen trees, concrete poles, stones and iron railings. Many cash machines have run out of cash and most petrol stations were also shut.
A local government official said that Internet access in the Guwahati, the main city of Assam state, had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.
The Meghalaya state government has also cut off mobile Internet, with parts of the capital Shillong brought under curfew since Thursday evening.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was planning to scrap a visit to the city due to begin on Sunday as the security situation deteriorated, media reported Friday. The Japanese leader had been slated to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Thursday, police had fired live and blank rounds as thousands of demonstrators in Guwahati and elsewhere took to the streets, some vandalising property and torching vehicles.
The two demonstrators killed in the city were among around 20 people being treated in hospital, “a few” of whom had gunshot wounds, said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at a Guwahati hospital.
Hundreds of passengers stuck at Guwahati airport were brought to the city on government buses with police escort in the early hours of Friday morning.
Several thousand troops have been drafted in to help police, who fired tear gas and charged demonstrators with batons, in recent days.
Security was increased at the Bangladeshi consulate in Guwahati after a vehicle in the consul’s convoy was attacked Wednesday by mobs, the foreign ministry in Dhaka said.
“They cant settle anyone in our motherland. This is unacceptable. We will die but not allow outsiders to settle here,” Manav Das, a protester told AFP on Friday.
“We will defeat the government with the force of the people and the government will be forced to revoke the law,” said local activist Samujal Battacharya.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), signed into law by the Indian president late Thursday, allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities from three neighboring countries, but not Muslims.
For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights groups, it is part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies this.
The US State Department on Thursday urged India to “protect the rights of its religious minorities,” according to Bloomberg.
But many in India’s northeast object for different reasons, fearing that immigrants from Bangladesh — many of them Hindus — will become citizens, taking jobs and weakening the local culture.
The chief ministers of the states of Punjab in the north and Kerala in the south also said that they would not implement the law, the Hindu daily reported.
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