Should the FTC jail Mark Zuckerberg instead of fining Facebook with 5 billion USD?

Data protection specialists report on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decision to apply a $5 billion USD fine to Facebook due to multiple practices that violate several social media users’ privacy protection laws.

The FTC’s decision has led to multiple unconformities because, after months of debate and investigations into the social network well-known misconduct practices in terms of privacy, a fine is a clearly insufficient measure to address this problem. Some specialists even reported an increase in the value of Facebook shares after this decision was disclosed. 

This fine is the highest that the FTC has imposed in its history on a technology company, far surpassing the record of $22 million in fine for Google in 2012, data protection experts report.

Although $5 billion USD looks like an incredibly high amount of money, it’s necessary to put things in perspective, as it is one of the most important companies in the world; in the first quarter of 2019, Facebook reported profits of more than $15 billion (in addition to $22 billion throughout 2018), so the FTC fine, while historical, remains a too weak move; “This fine equates to one month’s profit for Facebook,” data protection experts at the International Cyber Security Institute (IICS) say.

Financial specialists believe this reduced fine only strengthens Facebook’s dominant position among the rest of the technology and online service companies. “It is necessary to add another ‘0’ to that fine for companies to really start working on protecting their users’ privacy; reactive measures like this do not represent any improvement for companies with capital like Facebook”, says Kara Swisher, a finance expert. 

The FTC’s decision did not go unnoticed by members of the U.S. Congress. Senator Ron Wyden, for example, stated that this is a “miserably failed” decision, while other senators like Mark Wagner believe Congress should intervene in the case.

As we have seen, such actions do not have a positive impact on the experience of social media users. To achieve changes for users, who rely on the use of these platforms for various day-to-day purposes, governments need to take stronger action against the bad practices of social media platforms. The solution should not be limited to just taking money from Mark Zuckerberg’s pocket, as this is the easiest way for him to solve these issues.