A PYMNTS Company

US: Advocacy groups call on FTC to break up Facebook

 |  January 24, 2019

Facebook is facing breakup calls from a handful of advocacy groups that want the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to explore breaking up the social media giant.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a draft letter from the advocacy groups, reported that among the fixes in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the now-defunct political consulting firm accessed the data on 87 million users without their permission, is to spin out WhatsApp and Instagram. The group argued in the draft letter that Facebook should be forced to unwind those acquisitions because it didn’t protect users’ data.

The FTC is about to complete an investigation into the data breach and whether Facebook violated a consent decree reached in 2011 and could levy Facebook with a sizeable fine, reported The Wall Street Journal. “Facebook has operated for too long with too little accountability,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, one of the groups likely to sign the letter. Others advocates calling for the breakup include Color of Change and Open Markets Institute, noted the report.

The paper noted that the FTC, which has been shut down along with other parts of the government, didn’t respond to a request for comment. A person familiar with Facebook’s thinking said the social media company doesn’t think the FTC has the ability on a legal basis to call for a breakup if it found it violated the consent decree. In 2011, the FTC stated that Facebook deceived customers by sharing data it said it was kept private. The consent decree was inked in 2012.

If Facebook settles again with the FTC this time around, the paper reported Facebook will likely have to pay a large fine and face a stricter consent decree. But the advocacy groups think that’s not enough. They say the FTC should break up Facebook to send a message. Despite the advocacy groups’ efforts, the WSJ noted that it’s not likely the FTC, which is now controlled by a Republican majority, would back a breakup of the social media giant.