Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos said Wednesday that people are missing the most important element involved in holding the Silicon Valley company responsible for alleged privacy rights violations.
“The real threat to the tech giants is competition, not regulation, and everybody is missing what really happened today,” he told his Twitter followers. He was responding to a tweet from Obama-era adviser Ashkan Soltani, who was laying out details surrounding the Federal Trade Commission’s settlement Wednesday with Facebook.
Stamos continued: “Facebook paid the FTC $5B for a letter that says ‘You never again have to create mechanisms that could facilitate competition.’” He urged his former colleagues in March 2018 to purposely avoid collecting people’s data.
Facebook agreed to pay a record $5 billion and promised new privacy guarantees Wednesday to settle the FTC investigation. The agency argued Facebook violated the terms of its 2011 settlement “by deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information,” a Wednesday statement from the agency reads.
Stamos noted that the settlement did not include one important word: competition.
“Facebook already has ~2.5B users. It has the world’s second-largest ad network. It never again needs data from anybody else to make money or third parties to facilitate growth,” he said. “This order doesn’t include the word competition or include any balancing tests. It’s fantastic for FB.”
Lawmakers dinged the FTC for what they believe is the agency’s decision to go light on Facebook. “The FTC just voted to let Facebook off easy with a $5 billion settlement for compromising the data of tens of millions of Americans and allowing our elections to be improperly influenced, ” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote in a July 12 tweet. Her comment came the day the FTC approved the settlement.
Sen. Josh Hawley was similarly upset. “This is very disappointing. It does nothing to hold executives accountable. It utterly fails to penalize Facebook in any effective way,” the Missouri Republican said in a Wednesday tweet. Hawley has been one of the chief lawmakers calling on the Justice Department to break up what he believes are big tech’s monopolistic ways.
Other conservatives are also considering ways to hold Facebook and other big tech companies responsible for collecting user data. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for instance, suggested on July 11 that lawmakers should consider changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed in 1996 when the internet was new.
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