What Facebook’s $5 Billion Fine Means For You

Let’s take a quick step back in time. Picture this – the year is 2004, and then-college sophomore Mark Zuckerberg just launched a new website from his dorm room called “thefacebook.com.” Within a week, Zuckerberg would be sued by three Harvard seniors that claimed that he stole their idea for a social networking site, and it wouldn’t be many days later when Zuckerberg would be accused of breaking into two students’ email accounts based off of data that they provided on thefacebook.com (source). So, while the fine amount may be new for Facebook, the controversy is not.

In 2018, Facebook faced its biggest complication to date, when it announced that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed 87 million Facebook users’ data. Zuckerberg testified before Congress and made a vow to prevent something like this happening again. A major takeaway from his testimony wasn’t just the information he provided, but rather the fact that many users really don’t pay attention to the information they put on the internet. A great example of this occurred in July of this year, when news outlets started sharing how many people were using the Russian-made FaceApp, who were unaware of the information they had provided or how it could be used.

Sanctions from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) were announced last month in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and Facebook was hit with a record-breaking $5 billion penalty. Interestingly enough, the reason Facebook Is liable for this fine was due to the fact that they were “deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information,” the users won’t receive any of that compensation. US law states that the money will go to the US Treasury (source). One of the wildest parts about this fine is that after it was announced, the company’s stock actually increased in value. The American people really love their social media, right?

The FTC added additional restrictions, as well. Moving forward, Zuckerberg could be personally liable if certain mistakes occur with user data. Facebook has to form an independently-appointed privacy committee that will focus on data-protection efforts. The social network will have to act quickly if data gets compromised, with a timeline of 30 days if 500 users or more are affected. Another sanction that is important, considering how many photos are shared on Facebook, is that Facebook must give “clear and conspicuous notice of its use of facial recognition technology” so that that it is “easily understandable by ordinary consumers.” The settlement’s terms and conditions will last for 20 years and will apply to Facebook-owned apps like WhatsApp and Instagram, as well. (source)

Just remember, while the stealing of user information is obviously a bad thing, the users are the ones submitting this information online in the first place. Be cognizant the next time you click that advertisement or download that app. As for your company’s digital presence, there are plenty of legal ways to market to consumers and use their data in a non-evasive way. If you’re interested in learning more about how Marbury Creative Group can help you market to consumers, email shelly@marburycreativegroup.com.

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