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Facebook could be forced to create an independent privacy committee in an agreement with the FTC

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An anonymous source close to the talks told Politico that Facebook and the FTC are negotiating the terms of the agreement, which would require the company to create an “independent” privacy oversight committee in addition to paying the multi-billion dollar fine disclosed last week.

According to the source, the committee would include a federally approved privacy official as well as Facebook’s board members; Mark Zuckerberg would take the charge of “designated compliance officer” and enforce the company’s privacy policies.

With the current terms, the FTC would have the power to veto over the choices for the federally approved privacy “assessor”, whereas the privacy oversight committee would have to issue quarterly reports on the company’s conduct.

However, it’s unclear who would pay for the salaries of the new positions, how these positions would interact with the actual board of directors, and if they would ultimately have enough authority to influence Facebook’s decisions.

Mark Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, noted that the additional measures are not meaningful:

“Creating an independent office, or an office within Facebook — which by the way, is not independent — does not establish new privacy obligations, nor does it ensure compliance…to say that Mark Zuckerberg is personally responsible — Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook, so what does that mean? It doesn’t add anything.”

The plan, in its current form, doesn’t include new restrictions on data handling. Nor it requires additional checks on Zuckerberg’s leadership. Some have commented that more meaningful action would be reducing Facebooks ability to share data with third parties and demanding transparent privacy policies, however, these measures are not expected to be in the settlement.

The terms of the agreements are currently being discussed and could be modified until a final deal is reached. If the two parts will be unable to agree on the settlement, the matter could end up in court and the Justice Department would have to legally represent the FTC.

At the moment both the FTC and Facebook declined to comment on the matter.

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