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November 4, 2020 - By Hawke Media

Does a $5 Billion Fine Solve Facebook’s Privacy Problems?

If you get a speeding ticket, are you going to stop speeding? Probably not. 

Last month, the Federal Trade Commission finally issued Facebook a settlement for $5 billion, the result of an investigation into the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other privacy breaches. In addition to dishing out $5 billion, Facebook is implementing a new privacy plan, which goes into some detail about creating an external privacy committee who will require quarterly check-ins and holding developers who access people’s information accountable.

But Are Leaders Serious About Making Changes?  

Yes, all of the blanket statements made by CEO and Co-Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Vice President and General Counsel Colin Stretch sound apologetic, but it seems like they’re taking reactionary measures—not preventative ones.

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How do consumers know that Facebook’s settlement and vague new privacy policies will lead to legitimate changes within the company? Consumers should be skeptical, not cynical of the FTC pay-off and new privacy measures. Skepticism comes from a place of positivity, whereas cynicism comes from a place of negativity. 

We don’t know for sure what the outcome for Facebook will be, but we do know it’s important to stay alert and aware of our personal information when engaging in their social media platforms.

Facebook is an Uncontrollable Beast 

Chris Hughes, Facebook’s Co-Founder and Zuckerberg’s college roommate, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times back in May that talks about how Facebook has become an uncontrollable beast (especially after the ingestion of Instagram and WhatsApp communities) that billions of people use every day. 

Facebook’s competitors don’t even come close to the number of monthly users that Facebook platforms have. They corner the market with five times the monthly users than YouTube or their next biggest competitor has, too. In fact, Hughe’s called for Facebook to be broken up or even shut down, and maybe it should be. 

Can Zuckerburg Handle the Empire?

What makes Zuckerburg’s empire so dangerous is that it’s so large that nobody, not even Zuckerburg himself, can control it. 

In 2018, Facebook generated $55 billion in revenue, so paying $5 billion in reparations for breaching thousands of users’ privacy is essentially pocket change. According to Facebook’s 2018 Annual Report, revenue increased by $15 billion last year, or 37 percent. They’ve completely cornered the market, and they’ve even copied key features of their competitors’ products, like Snapchat’s stories. No one can compete against it, and once they copy you, they acquire you and shut you down. 

“Despite an extended economic expansion, increasing interest in high-tech start-ups, an explosion of venture capital and growing public distaste for Facebook, no major social networking company has been founded since the fall of 2011,” Hughes states in The New York Times, calling for government intervention in shutting Facebook down. 

Is the FTC Doing Enough About It?

Although the FTC states that the $5 billion Facebook settlement is “almost 20 times greater than the largest privacy or data security penalty ever imposed worldwide,” it’s just not enough. 

Not even the new privacy procedures are going to be enough. We know from the past few years, no matter how many times Facebook promised to do better in terms of privacy, they’ve breached consumers’ trust over and over again anyway. 

In a close FTC vote on the settlement that won 3-2, not all of the FTC commissioners were happy with the outcome, arguing that not enough was done to make Facebook pay for their large discrepancies. 

Is Facebook Headed in the Right Direction?

It seems as though the brand new privacy restructuring tactics—even the independent privacy committee, increased monitoring of third-party apps, and password encryption—are simply reactionary measures, not preventative ones. 

Facebook appears to make structural changes, but in the fine print of the settlement, they’re receiving immunity from lawsuits. Besides the vaguely stated policy revisions, how will Facebook change the way they operate and gain consumers’ trust again? It’s not clear, and the lack of clarity and the nature of the uncontrollable mogul that is Facebook is what makes the future of the company rocky, to say the least. 

The beast must be controlled.