Facebook's Privacy Practices May Get More Oversight
An independent panel has been proposed to monitor the company's handling of personal data
Facebook may be subject to additional oversight by the Federal Trade Commission under a potential multibillion-dollar settlement of consumer-privacy violations, according to a report by the Washington, D.C., website Politico.
The story, based on sources who requested anonymity, said the company may create several new positions to address ongoing problems with the way Facebook collects and uses consumer data.
According to the proposal, a privacy committee would be created and include members of Facebook’s board. That committee would then appoint an FTC-approved external assessor, who would file biennial reports about the company’s compliance with settlement terms.
A high-level Facebook executive would also be appointed as “a designated compliance officer,” with personal responsibility for adhering to the agreement’s guidelines. The Politco report suggested that CEO Mark Zuckerberg might fill that role.
As for the CEO’s potential new role, advocates—including McInnis—wonder how it would differ from his current one.
“Satan is in the small text,” says Emory Roane, policy counsel at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “It would all come down to the language of the final agreement. What are the obligations of the compliance officer? What are the penalties for not complying? But at the end of the day, Zuckerberg is Facebook and Facebook is Zuckerberg.”
As to what should be done to address Facebook’s missteps, EPIC has called for regulators to unwind the company’s acquisition of the messaging platforms Instagram and WhatsApp. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called for antitrust regulators to consider challenging the mergers before the Judiciary Committee in March. The FTC had already launched a task force in February to investigate antitrust issues in technology companies.
Forcing Facebook to divest those companies goes a step beyond the restrictions imposed by regulators in Germany in February, which prohibited Facebook from combining personal data from the messaging platforms without consumer consent.
Facebook has made a series of privacy missteps since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in March 2018. That incident triggered the FTC’s investigation into Facebook’s violation of the 2011 consent decree.
Other problems include an October 2018 data breach, a Facebook bug that let developers improperly download user photos, news that Facebook let children amass credit card bills on the site, and federal charges against the company for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.