Op-Eds & Articles

Facebook’s new plan doesn’t protect your privacy, and neither does the FTC

Facebook didn’t get where it is today by protecting your privacy. The company made $56 billion in 2018, in part by tracking people both on and off its platform and then selling targeted advertisements based on that surveillance. Yet when Facebook announced a shift to a “privacy-focused communications platform” in March and unveiled a redesign toward private messaging at its F8 developers conference on Tuesday, Facebook’s stock value did not even dip. How could that be, if surveillance is essential to Facebook’s business model?

May 3, 2019  |  by Sally Hubbard
Read on CNN Business

Facebook didn’t get where it is today by protecting your privacy.

The company made $56 billion in 2018, in part by tracking people both on and off its platform and then selling targeted advertisements based on that surveillance. Yet when Facebook announced a shift to a “privacy-focused communications platform” in March and unveiled a redesign toward private messaging at its F8 developers conference on Tuesday, Facebook’s stock value did not even dip. How could that be, if surveillance is essential to Facebook’s business model?
Perhaps all this privacy talk is nonsense, and investors know it.
Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with protecting consumers and enforcing a 2011 privacy order against Facebook for violating users’ privacy, looks also to be all talk and no action. Although the FTC’s settlement negotiations with Facebook are confidential, the agency is considering fining Facebook $3 billion to $5 billion, an amount Facebook can earn in just a month. The fine is a mere cost of doing business that makes breaking the law worth it for Facebook. A report indicates the FTC will not require Facebook to change its data handling practices and will merely require Facebook to create a privacy oversight committee to report to the FTC. But Facebook was already required to send the FTC privacy reports under the 2011 order. None of these remedies adequately protect consumers in light of Facebook’s persistent privacy violations. The FTC started its investigation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but since then multiple privacy violations have been reported, affecting many millions of users. Facebook has said it is open to increased oversight, according to a new report, and Zuckerberg has called for more regulation of the internet in the past.
Effective remedies must both curb data collection and promote competition, spurring new, innovative business models from Facebook and others. Like many in Silicon Valley, Facebook has been innovating in the wrong direction, building a surveillance architecture that is dangerous for democracy.

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