Today, Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection (DCCP) Ranking Member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ) led the eight Democratic members of the DCCP subcommittee on a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen regarding the FTC’s investigation into whether Facebook failed to adequately protect the privacy of consumers.
In the letter, the members outline how recent media accounts of Facebook’s troubling actions raise serious concerns about whether Facebook violated a 2012 FTC consent order or otherwise violated the FTC act. The members write that recent media reports “make clear that Facebook failed to adequately protect the personal information of more than 50 million users from misuse.” The members go on to say, “The scope of the breach and Facebook’s failure to notify affected consumers or regulatory agencies for more than two years or to take any reasonable measures to ensure the disposal of the data calls for the strongest possible enforcement response.”
The members detail specific examples of how Facebook’s troubling behavior could be in violation of the 2012 FTC order, including a misrepresentation of privacy settings and a failure to implement a “comprehensive privacy program”. They cite Facebook’s sluggish and passive response to the breach as especially troubling, saying. “For more than two years, Facebook did nothing to publicly acknowledge the breach or to notify affected users, and only now has Facebook committed to do a full forensic audit of the countless apps that have been collecting data from its site for years.”
The members expressed their hope that, “If, after completing the investigation the Commission determines that Facebook has violated the 2012 order, [they] hope that [the FTC] will impose civil penalties commensurate with the scope and severity of the breach and sufficient to send a clear message to Facebook and other companies that they must take their consumer privacy responsibilities seriously.”
The members closed their letter by expressing their concern that consumer privacy vulnerabilities exist throughout social media platforms and asked the FTC to asses whether other platforms are vulnerable to similar data exploitation. They expressed appreciation for the FTC’s inquiry and reiterated their expectation that it will be treated with the utmost priority.