For antitech activists, no fine is too high — Even $5 Billion from Facebook

Carl Szabo
Jun 12 · 4 min read

Yet, antitech advocates already decided that the yet to be announced FTC fine is not enough.

How much is not enough? Well apparently $5 billion in fines is not nearly enough for the insatiable appetites of these ideologues.

With $5 billion, you could have bought Marvel Studios ($4b). Or Star Wars ($4b). Or two YouTubes ($1.65b). You could have bought five Dollar Shave Clubs ($1b). Or five Twitches ($1b).

Despite what the ravings of these activists would have you believe, $5 billion is a lot of money. $5 billion is more than the three times the GDP of St. Kitts ($1.6b).

With $5 billion, you could have bought Marvel Studios ($4b). Or Star Wars ($4b). Or two YouTubes ($1.65b). You could have bought five Dollar Shave Clubs ($1b). Or five Twitches ($1b).

In the context of recent privacy-related fines, the FTC’s will likely be the largest by a huge margin. Last year, the EU fined Google $57 million over privacy issues — meaning the FTC fine will be almost 100 times larger. The fine will also be approximately 8,000 times larger than the UK’s privacy fine against Facebook, too.

The FTC’s likely fine against Facebook dwarfs other fines on data breaches — Target settled for a fine of $18.5 million when the financial information of 40 million people were leaked and Equifax’s 2017 security breach lost almost 150 million social security numbers and credit history files, but Equifax isn’t paying anything in its settlement with State Regulators.

Target settled for a fine of $18.5 million when the financial information of 40 million people were leaked. Equifax’s 2017 security breach lost almost 150 million social security numbers and credit history files, but Equifax isn’t paying anything in its settlement with State Regulators.

And lawsuits were tossed when challenging the federal government’s loss of the most sensitive information of 21.5 million Americans.

Regardless of whether these other settlements and fines were high enough is another issue — but when it comes to government action against private companies for data breaches, $5 billion is colossal compared to previous punishments.

Yet, despite the fact that we are likely awaiting a record-smashing fine, anti-tech advocates are already dissatisfied. Anti-tech lobbyists, the Open Markets Institute (OMI), issued a damning statement mere minutes after Facebook announced it had set aside $5 billion for the fine.

OMI probably had a prewritten statement that the fine was too low even before the number was announced. Instead of recognizing the magnitude of the potential fine, OMI decided that no matter the size, it was not enough.

For these zealots, nothing short of total business shutdown or break-up seems to be enough.

And this is not just limited to OMI. Many others piled on saying that a fine equivalent to the purchase price of Marvel Studios was not enough.

So what would have been enough? $6 billion? $7 billion?

Likely, for antitech activists, no fine is too big.

For these zealots, nothing short of total business shutdown or break-up seems to be enough. There are Senators seeking to hold Marc Zuckerberg personally liable for Facebook’s mistakes. Others are proposing bills to send business leaders to jail.

When Cambridge University Professor Aleksandr Kogan offered his app on Facebook, Facebook users saw what information they were sharing with the Professor and expressly consented to the sharing. In this data exchange, Facebook merely operated as the intermediary between its users and Kogan. It was only after users consented and shared their information with Kogan that Kogan abused the data.

As part of Facebook’s 2011 settlement with FTC Facebook was required to provide users with clear notice, get express consent before chaining settings, and have regular independent third-party audits. And while antitech advocates assert Cambridge Analytica caused Facebook to violate the agreement, facts suggest otherwise.

Despite no violation by Facebook, we are looking at a potentially record setting fine. And yet antitech crusaders are still not satisfied.

Facebook complied with these requirements and continues to comply to this day.

So despite no violation by Facebook, we are looking at a potentially record setting fine. And yet antitech crusaders are still not satisfied. At the end of the day our values should not be to upend American innovation, but instead seek outcomes that produce the greatest value for all. Here’s hoping the antitech activists realize that humility is something to strive for.

NetChoice

The home on Medium for all things NetChoice. Here, we publish opinion pieces on issues that we cover — fighting to break down barriers to e-commerce.

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Carl Szabo

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Tech and Privacy Attorney specializing in federal, state, and international legislation and tech issues.

NetChoice

NetChoice

The home on Medium for all things NetChoice. Here, we publish opinion pieces on issues that we cover — fighting to break down barriers to e-commerce.