The $5bn fine for Facebook by The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—assuming it is approved by the Department of Justice—is both eye-catching and sets a new record. The fine follows an investigation which began last March, triggered by the Cambridge Analytica case in which personal information was leaked to a political consultancy through a third party. Using fines to encourage better privacy protection is a questionable strategy. If they become seen as the cost of carrying on with business as usual, the FTC will be undermined.
The banking sector’s treatment after the financial crisis does not give cause for hope. As with Facebook, regulators there failed to act until the damage was plain to see. Faced with overwhelming public pressure, they hurriedly applied hefty financial penalties to make up for it. Over a decade on from the global financial crisis, many of the fundamental ways in which banks operate remain worryingly unchanged.
Over the past five years the utopianism that initially prevailed around the digital economy has been replaced by a “techlash”. Digital groups have transformed the way companies work and offered more choice for consumers. But the focus now is on getting tech companies to change their structure and behaviour, rather than price fines into their business models.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic presidential hopeful, has proposed breaking up companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. In Germany, Facebook’s attempt to pool data from across its platforms without user consent was blocked. EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager is launching a formal investigation into Amazon’s data practices and how it wears two hats, as a retailer and a marketplace for rivals.
Antitrust actions would reduce the risks that combined data sets from different platforms pose to privacy. Criminal sanctions for top executives, perhaps including jail time, may ultimately be necessary to achieve genuine changes in conduct. Until now, very few have faced any meaningful penalties for their actions. While the “move fast and break things” mentality may be embedded in these companies, the risk of personal consequences could act as a serious deterrent.
Even with its $5bn settlement, Facebook’s commitment to changing its ways when it comes to protecting user data and privacy remains dubious. Making big data companies more sensitive to privacy will require changing their relationship with data. Ensuring that happens needs measures and sanctions that go well beyond fines. There is no turning back.
26. The $5bn fine for Facebook ______.
[A] triggered a lawsuit against Cambridge Analytica
[B] may be useless in protecting privacy better
[C] might be a result of a political conspiracy
[D] will undermine its international credibility
27. Which of the following is true according to Paragraph 2?
[A] Banks was punished harsher than Facebook.
[B] The public was overwhelmed with hopelessness.
[C] Regulators’ measure turned out to be a failure.
[D] The global financial crisis lasted for a decade.
28. The word “techlash” (Para. 3) most probably means .
[A] technology-push innovation
[B] fever for digital-based industry
[C] technological unemployment
[D] resistance to tech companies
29. To achieve genuine changes in conduct, the author suggests .
[A] breaking up major technology companies
[B] carrying out more intensive investigations
[C] collecting data sets from different platforms
[D] imposing criminal penalties on executives
30. Which of the following would be the best title of the text?
[A] Fines Alone Cannot Keep Big Tech in Check
[B] FTC’ Fine Sparks the Great Privacy Awaking
[C] Cambridge Analytica: A Case Study for Privacy Protection
[D] Facebook-Cambridge Analytica: A Scandal for Tech Giants