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FTC Split Over Facebook Settlement Delays Decision

Facebook Settlement Held Back By Gov't Split

With a reported split between the Democrats and Republicans on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an anticipated settlement between Facebook and federal regulators related to privacy issues has been delayed. The social media company said in late April that it expected to have a fine of up to $5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.

At the time, observers watching the talks thought a settlement would be expected in a matter of days. Republican Chairman Joseph Simons, however, has been grappling with the challenge of winning support from a minimum of one of the two Democrats on the panel, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, who don’t think the settlement goes far enough. Observers believe the official wants a bipartisan decision to serve as a warning to other firms.

Consumer Reports’ Director of Consumer Privacy and Technology Policy Justin Brookman said, according to the report, “Joe is trying in good faith not to make it 3-2. I think Joe’s got a tough job and I give him credit for trying to bridge [differences]. That probably explains some of the delay.” Another observer noted Simons might worry that a split decision could impact the reputation of the FTC as a bipartisan commission.

In other recent news, two U.S. senators have spoken out against a reported settlement between the FTC and Facebook related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, per a report earlier this month. Through a letter to the agency, Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called a potential $5 billion fine a “bargain for Facebook.”

They added that Mark Zuckerberg should be held personally responsible for the lack of data privacy for the site’s users. The FTC was also reportedly considering a settlement that boosts oversight of data privacy to Facebook’s board of directors and makes the tech firm regulate third-party app developers, but the lawmakers didn’t think that was enough.

They wrote in a letter to FTC Chairman Joe Simons, according to Reuters, “It should consider setting rules of the road on what Facebook can do with consumers’ private information, such as requiring the deletion of tracking data, restricting the collection of certain types of information, curbing advertising practices and imposing a firewall on sharing private data between different products.”

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