Does a $5B Fine Change Anything for Facebook?

  • By Emily French
  • in
  • on August 1, 2019

The past 2 years have been trying times for Facebook- In February of 2018, German and Belgian courts ruled that the company broke data privacy laws for failing to ask users permission before collecting data for advertising purposes. March 2018 brought us the Cambridge Analytica scandal, releasing that 87 million users had their data acquired by the British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, for commercial use. November exposed Facebook’s racial discrimination issues and December found a flaw in security that allowed app developers to have access to users’ unpublished photos. 2019 has Facebook in and out of court, and now they’re facing a $5B fine from the FTC. The $5B fine is unprecedented, actually, it’s 20x’s greater than the largest privacy/data security penalty ever exposed, but many call to question whether the levy renders any consequences for the tech giant.

Upon the approval of the FTC’s $5B fine, stock prices jumped 1.8%, and Q2 generated $15B in revenue with $3B of that being set aside for the anticipated fines. That being said, $5B is somewhat of an arbitrary amount of money for Facebook, and the settlement holds no one liable for Facebook’s privacy violations – meaning Mark Zuckerberg holds 0 responsibility for the repeated offenses.

Something needs to change, but can we truly rely on Facebook to create, implement, and maintain better privacy policies for the long term? The FTC is requiring Facebook’s transparency on consumers’ public and private data usage with third parties, as well as more extensive security and maintenance of user data, but Zuckerberg himself has expressed the desire for the government to have a more direct role in internet privacy regulation. We’ve repeatedly seen the same problem occur again and again under the watchful eye of the FTC, and the scale of the scandals have only grown. For the time being, we can only hope that Facebook’s bad press in the public eye is an incentive for major structural change, especially given that a historic, billion-dollar fine isn’t enough to shake their stock price.

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