Senators: Reported Facebook Settlement 'Egregiously Inadequate'

A bipartisan trio of senators is seeking answers from the Federal Trade Commission about its reported $5 billion fine against Facebook over its sharing of user data with Cambridge Analytica.

“It is clear that a $5 billion fine alone is a far cry from the type of monetary figure that would alter the incentives and behavior of Facebook and its peers,” wrote the Senators in a letter to the five FTC commissioners. “The public expects the Commission to put consumers first and to take all necessary steps in your power to remedy Facebook’s privacy problems. We are highly disappointed to learn that the Commission has apparently failed to reach a strong, bipartisan agreement, sending the wrong message to tech companies.”

Firing off the letter were Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

They want answers to the following questions:

1. "What was the FTC’s process for determining the size of the monetary fine in this settlement? Please describe in detail the FTC’s method for determining the revenue Facebook was able to generate as a result of its violations of user privacy.

2. "Did the FTC interview Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and require disclosure of documents from Mr. Zuckerberg during its investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices? If not, why not?

3. "Will the FTC name Mr. Zuckerberg and any other member of Facebook management in its new settlement?

4. "Will the FTC impose new restrictions on how Facebook collects, uses, and discloses data about its users as part of this settlement? If not, why not?

5. "Will the FTC impose restrictions on Facebook’s upcoming cryptocurrency offering, Libra, as part of this settlement? If not, why not?"

6. "Will the FTC impose restrictions on Facebook's integration of messaging service offerings as part of this settlement? If not, why not?

7. "Will the FTC require Facebook to institute new rules and practices specifically designed to protect children and teens who use Facebook offerings? If not, why not?"

The FTC has not yet released the fine or accompanying settlement. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.