Sunday 18 August 2019

Opening up: Facebook to pay $5bn fine in privacy drive

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AP
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AP
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Facebook has agreed to pay a €4.5bn fine to the US Federal Trade Commission for shortcomings in its privacy practices.

The social media giant, which employs 3,000 people at its European headquarters in Dublin, has also agreed to add new corporate restructuring to better safeguard the privacy of its users.

The size of the fine may put a spotlight on upcoming decisions from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, who is due to rule on several investigations into Facebook under GDPR law. Facebook has over ten statutory enquiries under consideration from the Irish data authority, which acts on behalf of the European Union.

The US authorities say that Facebook had failed to prevent access to data from third party companies, including Microsoft and Sony.

Under the settlement, Facebook’s board will create an independent privacy committee that removes “unfettered control by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over decisions affecting user privacy.”

Facebook also agreed to pay a fine of €89.7 million to the US Securities and Exchange Commission to settle allegations that it misled investors about the seriousness of the misuse of users’ data.

Under the US agreement, Facebook will now be legally banned from asking for email passwords to other services when consumers sign up. It is also banned from using telephone numbers obtained in a security feature, like two-factor authentication, for advertising and must get user consent to use data from facial recognition technology.

Facebook said the deal worked out with the FTC would give the company “a comprehensive new framework for protecting people’s privacy.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chief executive said “We’ve agreed to pay a historic fine, but even more important, we’re going to make some major structural changes to how we build products and run this company.”

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