U.S. lawmakers criticize potential Facebook settlement with FTC

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logo is reflected in glasses in this picture illustration taken April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/Illustration/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators on Monday criticized reported plans for a Federal Trade Commission settlement with Facebook Inc for misuse of consumers’ personal data, saying that top officials, potentially including founder Mark Zuckerberg, must be held personally responsible.

In a letter to the FTC, Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Republican, told the agency that even a $5 billion civil penalty is a “bargain for Facebook.”

The agency is also reportedly contemplating a settlement that elevates oversight of privacy policies and practices to Facebook’s board of directors and requires the social media giant to be more aggressive in policing third-party app developers.

But that was inadequate, said Blumenthal and Hawley.

“The FTC should impose long-term limits on Facebook’s collection and use of personal information. 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,” they said in a letter to FTC Chairman Joe Simons.

The FTC has been investigating revelations that Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The probe has focused on whether the sharing of data and other disputes violated a 2011 agreement with the FTC to safeguard user privacy.

The two senators also urged the agency to name any Facebook official who was behind any violation of a consent decree. “Personal responsibility must be recognized from the top of the corporate board down to the product development teams,” they wrote.

The FTC acknowledged receipt of the letter but declined to comment. Facebook declined to comment.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Dan Grebler

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