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At this point, regulation of Facebook seems inevitable

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On the day that Facebook’s cofounder made a plea for the break up of Facebook, the Federal Trade Commission has again issued a call for the creation of a national privacy law that will regulate the way Facebook, Google, and other companies gather and manage data collected from their users.

The commissioners, who testified before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, urged Congress to grant their agency more power to police privacy violations, additional resources, and more authority to impose penalties against corporate offenders. These will all be possible if a national privacy law is established.

According to the FTC, the said national privacy law will regulate the collection and handling of user data. Executives from Silicon Valley are backing this call to action so much so that Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg was prompted to attend a meeting with the trade commissioners. During the meeting, Joseph Simmons, FTC chairman urged Congress to enact a privacy and data security legislation that will be enforced by none other than the FTC.

This development comes just in time when the FTC is about to reach a decision on its investigation of the privacy violation case against Facebook. The case was reopened last year when Cambridge Analytica was reported to have used Facebook data in compiling voter profiles that were used during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The decision on the said case will set the bar for the enforcement of online privacy in the future as well as establish a blueprint for regulating privacy violations.

Once approved, the decision will impose a $3-$5 billion penalty on Facebook for violation of the 2011 privacy settlement with the FTC. This will be the biggest penalty that Facebook will have to settle on record. The decision will also require Facebook to create several positions in the company that will handle privacy compliance and oversight.

While FTC commissioners are in unison about the penalty to be imposed on Facebook, there is some division when it comes to executive responsibility. Some lawmakers believe that Mr. Zuckerberg should be held liable whenever Facebook violates privacy. Thus, the CEO should pay penalties in the future. However, in the final statement, it seems Mr. Zuckerberg is not accountable and responsible at all.

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