FINALLY, IT'S OFFICIAL: Facebook will pay a hefty $5bn to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a privacy settlement that was kickstarted by the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
The sum is a hell of a lost of dosh; you'd be able to get enough penny sweets - if they still existed - to sink a small boat. But for the social network, it's not really all that much.
Grante, it's not loose change, but Facebook made more than $15bn in revenue in the first quarter of 2019, so it's hardly a fine it can't afford.
In fact, when the rumours started flying around that Facebook would face this massive fine, it's share price actually went up, such is Facebook's power and it's prep in forecasting such a fine so that shareholders wouldn't be shocked into a panic.
"Despite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how their personal information is shared, Facebook undermined consumers' choices," said FTC Chairman Joe Simons.
"The magnitude of the $5bn penalty and sweeping conduct relief are unprecedented in the history of the FTC. The relief is designed not only to punish future violations but, more importantly, to change Facebook's entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations. The Commission takes consumer privacy seriously, and will enforce FTC orders to the fullest extent of the law."
However, the fine isn't the be-all and end-all here. The real meat of the FTC's settlement is that Facebook will be subject to a 20-year-long order that will see its board of directors form an independent privacy committee without boss man Mark Zuckerberg, which will meet every quarter to get reports on its actions from a third-party privacy "assessor".
Notably, the settlement includes rules that will prevent Zuckerberg from dismissing any directors in the committee. And Facebook will need to create "compliance officers" to be responsible for the company's privacy programme.
Furthermore, Facebook will be put under strict privacy breach reporting rules, whereby any breaches will need to be reported within 30 days.
All of this could be a pain in the jacksie for Facebook as every new or modified product it puts into its social network, Instagram or WhatsApp will need to have a privacy review before it's implemented. But Facebook seems ready for the changes.
In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg seemed to welcome the order and note that sweeping privacy changes would be implemented by the company, including the appointment of a chief privacy officer, and would take "more than a thousand people" across Facebook to make them.
"As we build our privacy-focused vision for the future of social networking that I outlined earlier this year, it's critical we get this right. The next focus for our company is to build privacy protections as strong as the best services we provide," Zuck said.
Going by Facebook's announcement of the changes coming out of the settlement, there's an argument that it's making them sound like the privacy points were all its idea.
But given the privacy foibles Facebook seemed to get embroiled in over the past year and a bit, it wouldn't be surprising to see the privacy restructure really give Facebook a smack round the chops when it comes to privacy gaffes. µ
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