Josh Hawley: FTC Settlement ‘Utterly’ Fails to Penalize Facebook for Privacy Violations

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 27: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority Policy Conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center Auditorium June 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Created as a bridge between conservative Tea Party movement and evangelical voters, the Faith and Freedom Coalition …
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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said Wednesday that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has “utterly” failed to penalize Facebook “in any effective way” for violating Americans’ privacy.

The FTC formally approved a $5 billion settlement Wednesday with Facebook over the social media giants’ privacy policies. The fine serves as the largest ever imposed by the agency against a tech company for privacy violations. The FTC previously fined Google in 2012 for $22.5 million.

The FTC settlement stipulates that Facebook will have to create an independent privacy committee on its board of directors to remove “unfettered control” by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg over user privacy decisions.

Zuckerberg will have new responsibilities to comply with the order; however, the Washington Post reported that the FTC did not question the CEO as part of the agency’s investigation, and regulators were divided over whether to hold Zuckerberg more directly accountable for the company’s privacy violations.

Sen. Hawley, one of the Senate’s leading tech critics, said that the FTC “utterly” failed to penalize Facebook for its privacy violations.

“This is very disappointing,” Hawley tweeted Wednesday. “This settlement does nothing to change Facebook’s creepy surveillance of its own users & the misuse of user data. It does nothing to hold executives accountable. It utterly fails to penalize Facebook in any effective way.”

Sens. Hawley and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) previously said that a $5 billion settlement would serve as a “bargain.” Facebook reached $55 billion in revenue in 2018.

Even though the agency gave out the largest fine ever for violating Americans’ privacy, Sens. Hawley and Blumenthal contend that the fine would send a signal to other technology companies that they can continue to “push the boundaries” with privacy.

“If the FTC is seen as traffic police handing out speeding tickets to companies profiting off breaking the law, then Facebook and others will continue to push the boundaries,” the senators wrote to the agency.

The senators wrote to the FTC, “Even a fine in the billions is simply a write-down for the company, and large penalties have done little to deter large tech firms.”

Sen. Hawley also said that Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute (OMI), made a good point that the FTC failed to prosecute Facebook’s privacy violations fully, noting that the FTC did not question Zuckerberg.

Stoller said that the federal government should abolish the FTC and “turn the building over to the National Gallery.”

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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