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On Tuesday, the FTC Commissioners sat before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection to discuss the Agency's current priorities. On the list of concerns from almost every Senator was what the FTC is doing to protect consumer privacy and hold the tech companies accountable. In his opening remarks, Republican Subcommittee Chair Senator Jerry Moran criticized the recent violations of Facebook and Google, and acknowledged that it is perfectly clear that it is time to pass a Consumer Data Protection Act. He said he hopes to work with the FTC to develop this legislation and learn what tools the agency needs for its work.
If the FTC is actually doing its job and investigating whether Facebook violated its 2011 approval, the agency's chairman, Joseph Simons, would not say. When Senator Richard Blumenthal asked Simons when the FTC's investigation was completed and the results were presented to the public, Simons simply said, "It is inappropriate to comment on a particular non-public inquiry." This was the standard response to questions about the investigation, even as Senator Edward Markey asked if the FTC was investigating YouTube's and Google's controversial children's fraudulent marketing practices.
There were two major issues during the hearing: the FTC claim it needs more resources and recognition of all that the agency has a poor record in enforcing. In his opening speech, Commissioner Rohit Chopra linked the two points and said that too often the FTC was prepared to accept a settlement in order to avoid a costly process. "Although big penalties made good headlines, I doubt whether they really scared the law-breaking," Chopra said.
This point makes it all the more clear that the agency has an excellent case as an example that it can use as an example. Follow the enforcement of the threats. Facebook has admitted that it abused the data of 87 million users and dropped it into the hands of a political data analysis firm working for Trump's presidential campaign. He knew that in 2015, but only became known in March. The app developer, who has absorbed all of this data from Facebook, has asked users for permission, but has not been given permission to collect data from friends of their users. This could be a violation of the 2011 Declaration of Conformity, where Facebook has agreed to notify users and obtain explicit permission before sharing data with a third party that does not fall into the privacy settings of a user.
In March, the Washington Post interviewed David Vladeck, the former FTC point person for the Facebook settlement. Vladeck informed the Post that the Cambridge Analytica case raises "serious questions about compliance with the FTC's consent." Facebook rejected "any suggestion of breach of consent," but Vladeck still said the FTC expected an investigation. Although Vladeck told the Post that Facebook could be fined $ trillion for the $ 40,000 fine per offense, he doubted the agency would impose such a heavy hand.
The FTC could do something really something. It has been strange to hear the calls of Facebook investors since the scandal broke out earlier this year, and never to hear questions about possible fines that may be forthcoming. It's almost as if investors do not believe the FTC will do its job. I can not think of a better way for the agency to prove this term wrong.