With Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission in the final stages of settlement talks, disagreements between the five-member FTC panel are complicating the discussions.
The New York Times, citing three people with knowledge of the talks, reported that while the five FTC commissioners agreed months ago to fine Facebook a record amount, they can’t agree on how much and how severe the punishment should be for the social media giant. Facebook is in talks with the FTC to settle a lawsuit stemming from its scandal with Cambridge Analytica. In that case, the now defunct political consulting company was able to access information on more than 87 million Facebook users without their consent. When Facebook reported quarterly earnings in late April it said it was setting aside $3 billion to $5 billion to cover a settlement with the FTC.
According to The New York Times, the disagreements between the five commissioners is hurting the talks as they enter the final stages. One of the deepest disagreements between the commissioners is reportedly over Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal responsibility. The question is if he should be personally liable for violations of an accord Facebook reached with the FTC in 2011. The FTC is looking into violations since the agreement was inked. The report noted Facebook has been arguing that Zuckerberg shouldn't be legally responsible since he can’t control the actions of all his employees. While talks may still fall apart, the paper reported discussions are moving ahead and should be completed in the days to come.
The report noted that in addition to the fine, Facebook has reportedly agreed to create new roles centered on privacy policies and compliance. The FTC would create an independent committee that would provide oversight of Facebook’s efforts on the privacy front. The committee, which would be created in coordination with Facebook and the FTC, would name an outside assessor who would monitor how Facebook handles data.
The settlement is being closely watched by regulators, lawmakers, and technology companies around the globe. “This is a hugely important decision because it will be watched by all these big companies to see if there is actually going to be a new day on the enforcement front,” Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, told The New York Times. He has called for Zuckerberg to be held personally liable in any settlement with the FTC, noted the report.