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Privacy group asks court to reconsider FTC’s $5 billion Facebook deal
The settlement does nothing to address the underlying issues, EPIC says.
– 7/29/2019, 6:03 PM
Enlarge / Thumbs down.Getty Images | Ted Soqui
A group of privacy and consumer organizations is asking a federal court to slow its roll on approving the Federal Trade Commission’s $5 billion settlement with Facebook, saying it doesn’t do nearly enough to protect individuals.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed the motion to intervene (PDF) with the US District Court in Washington, DC, on Friday, asking the court to let it and other privacy advocacy groups file comments in a “careful review of the fairness and adequacy” of the proposed settlement. The agreement between Facebook and the FTC, as announced last week, includes a record-setting $5 billion fine and mandates changes to Facebook’s reporting structure and oversight for privacy-related matters.
As with any other settlement, the consent decree between Facebook and the FTC is not final until after a judge approves. EPIC is specifically asking the court not to rubber-stamp it but instead to allow it and other privacy organizations to file briefs to the case and to schedule a hearing to review privacy-related issues.
The settlement is not “adequate, reasonable, or appropriate,” EPIC said in its filing. “Its scope goes far beyond the dispute in question, extinguishing all 26,000 pending consumer complaints” made about Facebook prior to June 2019.
“The proposed settlement is clearly not in the public interest, as it leaves consumer complaints unaddressed while still failing to ensure consumer privacy on Facebook,” the group continued. “This court has a mandate not to ‘stand by and approve any consent decree placed before it’ and ‘is not obliged to accept one that appears to make a mockery of judicial power’ like the consent decree proposed in this case.”
A collection of other advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Color of Change, and Open Markets, all issued statements supporting the suit and expect to be involved with it going forward if the court allows.
“The public has a right to know what laws Facebook violated,” said Color of Change Senior Campaign Director Brandi Collins-Dexter. Corporations should face consequences for violating the public trust, not be given a rubber stamp to carry out business as usual.”
EPIC and the groups joining it are far from alone in criticizing the settlement. Other groups, such as Consumer Reports and the EFF, called for Congress to pass some kind of legislation protecting consumer privacy going forward.