Facebook is about to pay the largest privacy-related fine in US history: $3-5B (the company made $3.3B in Q1/2019).
The FTC's fines are a nice start, but fines are just part of the cost of doing business. To change Facebook's conduct, the FTC should impose structural changes on the company, and EFF's Bennett Cyphers has some suggestions: ban third-party tracking; prohibit the combining of data from Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook; and ban the company from targeting ads with information from data brokers.
That's for starters.
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Stop Third-Party Tracking
Facebook uses “Like” buttons, invisible Pixel conversion trackers, and ad code in mobile apps to track its users nearly any time they use the Internet—even when they’re off Facebook products. This program allows Facebook to build nauseatingly detailed profiles of users’—and non-users’—personal activity. Facebook’s unique ability to match third-party website activity to real-world identities also gives it a competitive advantage in both the social media and third-party ad markets. The FTC should order Facebook to stop linking data it collects outside of Facebook with user profiles inside the social network.
Don’t Merge WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Data
Facebook has announced plans to build a unified chat platform so that users can send messages between WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram accounts seamlessly. Letting users of different services talk to each other is reasonable, and Facebook’s commitment to end-to-end encryption for the unified service is great (if it’s for real). But in order to link the services together, Facebook will likely need to merge account data from its disparate properties.
Chris Hughes co-founded Facebook with Mark Zukerberg, and describes Zuckerberg in warm terms as a friend, but in a long op-ed for the New York Times, Hughes calls for the breakup of Facebook and identifies Zuckerberg's shortsighted prioritization of "clicks" instead of "security and civility" for the platform's toxicity, blaming the company's unusual share structure (which gives Zuckerberg an absolute veto over all matters of company policy despite holding a minority of its shares) for a situation in which Zuckerberg is surrounded by yes-men who never check his worst impulses. Read the rest
Massive income inequality, combined with Republican attacks on the taxation of the wealthiest, has produced a situation in which the state increasingly depends on extracting fines, interest and debt service from people who grow steadily poorer and less able to pay, and thus the state must turn to ever-more-extreme measures to extract the money it needs to survive. Read the rest