If ever the shrug emoji belonged in a blog post, today is the day. The tech giant reached a $5 billion settlement for misrepresenting the way it handles user privacy, the SEC fined it $100 million for misleading investors about the risks associated with the misuse of user information, and, still later in the day, Facebook admitted that it was the target of an FTC anti-trust investigation. Oh yeah, then came second quarter results, which exceeded expectations.
The settlement demanded that Facebook create new roles at the company to oversee privacy and police it, and that the company set about creating a more transparent environment for the information that the company collects, and how it’s used. The $5 billion fine was specifically for misleading users regarding their control over the ways Facebook used their data.
The settlement was met by a general outcry, with many experts saying the settlement was toothless. With $56 billion in revenue, the fine is absorbable, and the new strictures in no way proscribe the way Facebook collects and sells user information. In other words, it signaled business as usual for the time being.
“The F.T.C. is sending the message that wealthy executives and massive corporations can rampantly violate Americans’ privacy and lie about how our personal information is used and abused and get off with no meaningful consequences,” Sen. Ron Wyden said.
The anti-trust investigation is not really news. It has been speculated for some time that the FTC was looking into the possibility that Facebook used its muscle to squash competition, news of an investigation may signal a more intense phase of regulatory action regarding the way big tech uses, and, by implication, abuses consumer information.