Facebook 'nearing deal' with US govt

WASHINGTON • Social media giant Facebook is said to be headed towards an agreement with the US government over its privacy policies and practices that would put it under 20 years of oversight.

A source has said the deal would resolve a probe into whether the firm violated a similar consent pact reached in 2011.

There were expectations a deal was imminent after Facebook set aside US$3 billion (S$4 billion) to pay an expected penalty of US$3 billion to US$5 billion. But two sources said on Monday that no deal was expected this week.

One of the sources said announcement of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could be a month away.

Several US lawmakers have criticised aspects of a potential agreement between the FTC and Facebook that would elevate oversight of privacy policies and practices to Facebook's board of directors and require the social media company to be more aggressive in policing third-party app developers.

In a letter to the FTC, Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Republican, told the agency that even a US$5 billion civil penalty was too little and that top Facebook officials, potentially including founder Mark Zuckerberg, should be held personally responsible.

Facebook's 2011 settlement with the FTC also required it to report to the government agency about its privacy practices for 20 years.

The FTC has been investigating claims that Facebook inappropriately shared data belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The probe has focused on whether the sharing of data and other disputes violated the 2011 consent deal.

The lapse, and anger over hate speech and misinformation on its platform, has prompted calls from people including Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes for the government to force the social media giant to sell Instagram, which it bought in 2012, and WhatsApp, purchased in 2014.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook 'nearing deal' with US govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe