Was the FTC’s $5 Billion Facebook Fine Enough?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved a $5 billion settlement with Facebook in a 3-2 vote this week.

This settlement is a capstone on the FTC’s record of failing to police America’s markets and privacy abuses. Congress should no longer tolerate the FTC’s failures as an enforcer, which have led to its crisis of legitimacy.

“The FTC’s settlement is woefully insufficient in light of Facebook’s persistent privacy violations,” said Open Markets Director of Enforcement Sally Hubbard. “The fine is a mere cost of doing business that makes breaking the law worth it for Facebook. To be effective, remedies must both curb Facebook’s widespread data collection and promote competition. Otherwise, Facebook will continue to fortify its monopoly power by surveilling users both on Facebook and off, and users can’t vote with their feet when Facebook violates their privacy.”

Even as the FTC refuses to meaningfully act, the District of Columbia’s Attorney General Karl A. Racine is suing Facebook for privacy violations. New York Attorney General Letitia James also has launched an investigation into Facebook’s harvesting of email contacts.

“We applaud Racine and James for action in the face of wrongdoing,” continued Hubbard. “More state attorneys general should step up privacy and antitrust enforcement.”

Open Markets also calls upon Congress to investigate the FTC’s failure to police our markets. “Congress should consider cutting the agency’s funding and reappropriating $50 million to state attorneys general who do believe in enforcing the law,” said Matt Stoller, a senior fellow at the Open Markets Institute.

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