The federal government’s struggles to rein in Facebook are driving some Democrats and consumer advocates to a stark conclusion: The agency charged with regulating Silicon Valley is not up to the task.
The 105-year-old Federal Trade Commission is a main enforcer of Americans’ consumer protections but it has only a small fraction of the money and workforce of the nation’s largest tech companies — and a privacy staff less than half that of the Irish agency that regulates Facebook’s European operations.
And its 15-month investigation of Facebook’s handling of consumer data has some lawmakers and activists calling for an entirely new agency to oversee the online industry.
Those calls have only grown during a week of bipartisan derision for the FTC’s proposed $5 billion privacy fine for Facebook — a historically large penalty by U.S. standards, but one that many lawmakers have called laughably small given the social networking giant’s resources.
The markets also shrugged at the proposed punishment, which comes after months of settlement talks with the company: Facebook’s stock price hit its highest point in almost a year after news of the fine broke.