Facebook agrees to extensive new oversight as part of $5 billion settlement

click to enlarge Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, speaks at F8, the company’s annual developer conference in San Jose, Calif., May 1, 2018. Facebook on July 24, 2019, was ordered to create new layers of oversight for its collection and handling of users’ personal data by the Federal Trade Commission, as the agency detailed a privacy settlement with the social network that signals Washington’s newfound energy in reining in powerful technology companies. - JASON HENRY/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Jason Henry/The New York Times
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, speaks at F8, the company’s annual developer conference in San Jose, Calif., May 1, 2018. Facebook on July 24, 2019, was ordered to create new layers of oversight for its collection and handling of users’ personal data by the Federal Trade Commission, as the agency detailed a privacy settlement with the social network that signals Washington’s newfound energy in reining in powerful technology companies.
By Mike Isaac and Natasha Singer
New York Times News Service


SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook was ordered Wednesday to create new layers of oversight for its collection and handling of users’ data by the Federal Trade Commission, as the agency detailed a privacy settlement with the social network that became a referendum on how aggressive U.S. regulators would be against big tech companies.

Under the agreement, the FTC mandated that the Silicon Valley company add new positions and practices to increase the transparency and accountability of how it treats people’s information. The agency also formally imposed a record $5 billion fine against Facebook for deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal data.


Yet the measures, which the FTC’s commissioners approved in a 3-2 vote this month, drew sharp criticism for not going far enough in curbing the data habits of the world’s largest social media company. Republican and Democratic lawmakers pilloried the settlement as a drop in the bucket for Facebook and said the FTC failed to limit a core practice that has repeatedly raised privacy questions: the company’s gathering, sharing and use of people’s personal information.

The FTC agreement “utterly fails to penalize Facebook in any effective way,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, a R-Mo.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who is pushing for new federal privacy laws, said the settlement would not deter Facebook from further privacy violations.

The agreement stopped short of more punitive measures that the FTC had previously discussed against Facebook, including holding chief executive Mark Zuckerberg personally liable for missteps and potentially taking the company to court. The fine was also a fraction of Facebook’s $56 billion in annual revenue.


The agency also agreed the settlement would shield Facebook from known claims of violations before June 12, 2019, essentially giving the company a pass on its past. And it provided immunity to Facebook officers and directors.

Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that the FTC’s orders “go beyond anything required under U.S. law today.” He added that he supported the agreement because it would “reduce the number of mistakes we make and help us deliver stronger privacy protections for everyone.”

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