“Venality” Must Have Consequences: The FTC Must Act To Protect Democracy From Facebook’s Power
April 26, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 26, 2018
(Washington, DC) – On Facebook’s earnings call last night, CEO Mark Zuckerberg celebrated the corporation’s enormous profits and fast-growing advertising business. Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg also proudly discussed how committed they are to keeping Facebook’s business model – which relies on close surveillance of an individual’s actions, friendships, dreams, and emotional state – to target users with highly personalized ads.
During the call, multiple Wall Street analysts asked about how Europe’s new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, might affect future earnings. But not a single analyst asked about the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s newly announced investigation of Facebook for violating the 2011 consent decree that committed the corporation to protecting the privacy of its American users. In theory, this fine could reach into the trillions of dollars.
Every commissioner at the FTC – past, present, and future – should be affronted by this lack of respect for their institution.
The Open Markets Institute today calls on the FTC to move to restore the credibility of the institution by swiftly determining whether Facebook broke the terms of the 2011 consent decree, and if so to substantially fine and/or restructure the corporation. The former FTC official who crafted that decree recently wrote that Facebook’s actions have shown the corporation to be “venal.” It is vital that our law enforcement agencies demonstrate that venality has consequences. The FTC’s law enforcers must also prove they know how to regulate 21st century communications monopolies to ensure they pose no dangers to individuals or to the nation as a whole.
As a first step in that direction, the U.S. Senate should immediately confirm the five individuals who have been nominated to serve as commissioners on the FTC.
Open Markets also calls on the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Facebook is withholding internal analysis about the likelihood and potential consequences of regulatory actions by the U.S. Congress and the FTC. America’s capitalist system requires that publicly traded corporations fully detail all real risks, and thereby empower citizens to make smart decisions about how to invest their hard-earned money.
The Open Markets Institute works to protect our economy and democracy from extreme concentrations of economic and political power. We do so by researching and reporting on the political and economic dangers posed by monopolization and advocating for ways to reestablish America’s political economy on a more fair, secure, and stable footing.