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Facebook Deal with FTC Went Too Far, Privacy Groups Tell Court

Oct. 15, 2019, 9:42 PM

Facebook Inc.'s $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission released the company from too many privacy claims, a group of privacy advocates said in an Oct. 15 filing urging a Washington federal court to reject the settlement.

The group, led by Public Citizen, said the July 24 deal improperly gave Facebook broad immunity from possible data misuse allegations. The FTC should not have let Facebook off the hook for how it uses children’s data and collects health information, the group said. The deal also won’t limit potential privacy violations in the future, it said.

Facebook “should not be rewarded with a court order that sweeps under the rug even more information about other acts and practices that the FTC knows may have violated the law,” the advocates wrote. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Common Sense Media, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group joined Public Citizen in filing the brief.

“Because of the breadth of the release, the proposed decree is far from fair, adequate, reasonable and appropriate under the particular facts,” the group wrote in its brief. The settlement allows “past violations to escape without remedy,” it wrote.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A wide range of privacy groups, along with lawmakers from both parties, have criticized the settlement. They’ve said the record-setting deal was a slap on the wrist for Facebook, and didn’t go far enough to limit the company’s questionable data use practices.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, wroteto the FTC Oct. 10 questioning the deal.

“I am concerned that the settlement lets Facebook off the hook for unspecified violations,” Cantwell (D-Wash.) wrote. The settlement also may “serve as an ineffective deterrent against future policy violations,” she wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com