4 min read

Lately, Facebook has been in news for its data breaches and issues related to its illegal data sharing. To add to its sorrows, yesterday, advocacy groups such as Open Market Institute, Color of Change, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center among others, wrote to the Federal Trade Commission, requesting the government to intervene into how Facebook operates.

The letter had a list of actions that the FTC could take which includes a multibillion-dollar fine, changing the company’s hiring practices, and breaking up Facebook for abusing its market position.

Last week, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) officials were planning to impose a fine of over $22.5 billion on Facebook according to a report by Washington Post. As per the revelations made last year, over 87 million users’ data was given to Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, without users’ consent. As a result of which, Facebook was fined £500,000, last October. This time Facebook might have to pay more than $22.5 million, the fine which was imposed on Google for tracking users of Apple’s Safari web browser in 2012. As per FTC, Facebook may have violated a legally binding agreement with the government to protect the privacy of users’ personal data.

As a result of its Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the subsequent issues with data and privacy, advocacy groups are now calling for Facebook to be broken up because of the privacy violations and repeated consumer data breaches.

The letter written to FTC by the advocacy group reads, “The record of repeated violations of the consent order can no longer be ignored. The company’s business practices have imposed enormous costs on the privacy and security of Americans, children and communities of color, and the health of democratic institutions in the United States and around the world.”

According to the groups, it has been almost ten years since many organizations first brought the commission’s attention to Facebook’s unfair business practices that threatened the privacy of the consumers.

The letter reads, “Facebook has violated the consent order on numerous occasions, involving the personal data of millions, possibly billions, of users of its services. Based on the duration of the violations, the scope of the violations, and the number of users impacted by the violations, we would expect that the fine in this case would be at least two orders of magnitude greater than any previous fine.”

According to organizations like Open Market Institute and Color of Change, Facebook should be required to give up $2 billion as fine and divest ownership of Instagram and WhatsApp for failing to protect user data on those platforms as well.The groups have urged the FTC to require Facebook to comply with Fair Information Practices for all future uses of personal data across all services for all companies.

The letter reads, “Given that Facebook’s violations are so numerous in scale, severe in nature, impactful for such a large portion of the American public and central to the company’s business model, and given the company’s massive size and influence over American consumers, penalties and remedies that go far beyond the Commission’s recent actions are called for.”

According to the letter, Facebook breached its commitments to the Commission regarding the protection of WhatsApp user data.

The letter further reads, “Facebook has operated for too long with too little democratic accountability. That should now end. At issue are not only the rights of consumers but also those of citizens. It should be for users of the services and for democratic institutions to determine the future of Facebook.”

According to The Verge, lawmakers have been quiet on breaking up Facebook. In an interview with The Verge, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), one of the senators at the forefront, said that breaking up the company was more of a “last resort.”

According to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings reviewed by The Hill, the largest five tech companies Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter lobbied on a variety of issues, including trade, data privacy, immigration and copyright issues. Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, even got testified before Congress last year. Facebook lobbied $12.6 million. It seems that the data privacy issues made Facebook get into lobbying.

Read Next

Facebook AI research introduces enhanced LASER library that allows zero-shot transfer across 93 languages

Russia opens civil cases against Facebook and Twitter over local data laws

Trick or Treat – New Facebook Community Actions for users to create petitions and connect with public officials