Regulators in the United States have approved a $5 billion (Dh18.36 billion) fine against Facebook to settle an federal investigation into the social media platform’s role into data violations and abusing the privacy of its members. While the penalty from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the largest ever levied against a company and certainly makes for good headlines, the reality is that with a company the size of Facebook, this amounts to a mere slap on the wrist. Putting it in context, in the first six months of 2019 alone, Facebook had a profit of more than $15 billion — with the FTC penalty being nothing more than one small cost of doing business.
Facebook has played fast and loose with the data collected on its two billion members. Just how targeted individuals use the platform, what information they share, what third-party apps they use, provided very valuable information indeed, with last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal scratching the surface on this worrying trend. As individuals, we all should be guaranteed the right of privacy.
The European Union and its introduction last year of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) has taken a significant step forwards in protecting the privacy of its 500 million people and anyone who communicates with them. The penalties contained in GDPR would indeed place a far more onerous burden on Facebook for its activities compared to the FTC fine. But little though it is, at least the FTC has recognised that Facebook crossed lines.
Facebook also shows scant regard for those who spend too much time on its platform, addicted to cute kitty videos and inane video feeds. The social media behemoth has been ruthless in its pursuit of other growth opportunities, spreading its tentacles to other platforms that together provide the company with far too much detail on people’s lives.
The company cares little for the veracity of information on its site while at the same time undercutting and slowly strangling traditional news gathering organisations by disseminating news without adequate compensation to the originators of genuine news — just one more highly shameful aspect of a company that is detrimental and predatory in its actions.
Make no mistake and notwithstanding this FTC fine, we are fast approaching the day when Facebook must be broken up — it is simply too large and monopolistic to be allowed to negatively influence social media. The sooner that happens, the better for all.