Facebook Feels Bipartisan Heat; May Be Too Big For Taming

June 4, 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before committees from both the House and Senate further confirmed one of the largest data privacy intrusions in U.S. history.  Both sides of the aisle are now pushing for data privacy regulations to protect the millions of Americans who use the site.  The scandal arose from the discovery that Facebook had revealed information with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, that wanted to use the information in an attempt to sway elections through online advertising.  Russia’s attempts to interfere with the U.S. national elections have also been linked to the social media platform.

Facebook has apologized and agreed to stop releasing information to third-party data collectors in an effort to calm the backlash from Congress and the public. To prevent a further data collection, the Senate drafted a bill that would require Facebook to be more transparent with its online political ads by disclosing the source of the ad’s funding.

Despite the bill’s soft bite, Facebook is still pouring millions into lobbying against potential regulations. The company is looking to avoid strict data privacy rules in the U.S. like those that it will face in the European Union starting this month. The rules which go into effect May 25, 2018, apply to all companies that collect data on EU residents. Users will now be able to give and withdraw their consent for data use to companies like Google and Facebook.

Similar regulations are a serious possibility in the U.S. and could also be fueled by a Federal Trade Commission investigation into whether Facebook violated privacy assurances it made in a 2011 lawsuit. The company settled that case by pledging that users’ content would remain private, which was obviously not the case, making its way to third-parties such as Cambridge Analytica.

While Facebook’s market value has recently tumbled by more than $88 billion, the company still has the finances and resources to fight the potential regulations. Through its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook holds an almost monopolistic seat atop social media. Due to Facebook’s lobbying capabilities and the current anti-regulatory trend stemming from the White House, it is unclear if any steps towards protecting users’ private content will be taken. Users may be forced to accept that Facebook is publicly sharing their information or choose not to use the site.