During almost ten hours of hearings this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced questions from nearly 100 members of Congress. And more than a dozen of them brought up the Federal Trade Commission. While questions about that agency may not have made for the sexiest soundbites, its actions may prove to be one of the most important factors in whether Congress actually regulates Big Tech, or just continues to talk about doing so.
The FTC is more of a law enforcement agency than a rule-making one, and one of its primary mandates is protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. Following revelations about Cambridge Analytica, a political marketing firm that improperly obtained personal information from approximately 87 million Facebook user profiles, the FTC announced that it was opening an investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices. Tom Pahl, the acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement that the agency is “firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers.”
This is a big deal — the company’s stock took a hit as reports of the investigation surfaced — in part because Facebook has been in the agency’s sights before. In 2012, the social media behemoth reached a final settlement with the FTC over charges that the company previously deceived consumers by saying their information would remain private “and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.” The complaint specifically references the fact that users’ data could be obtained by third-party app developers in ways that could have caught those users unaware, which is awfully reminiscent of Facebook’s current fiasco.
As part of an agreement known as a consent decree, Facebook …read more
Source:: Time – Technology