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Facebook settlement requires Mark Zuckerberg to certify privacy



WASHINGTON – Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg must personally confirm that the company is taking steps to protect consumer privacy under a settlement expected to be announced by the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday, a person familiar with the case said. [19659002] The agreement includes a requirement that Mr. Zuckerberg should make the certification to the FTC quarterly based on his personal knowledge, the person said. A false statement in such certification would be exposed to potential fines, said the person.

Another person familiar with the case said Mr. Zuckerberg would have to confirm that Facebook has privacy control in place.

The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the settlement includes a $ 5 billion fine for Facebook and other claims on how Facebook treats users' privacy.

Facebook does not admit or deny guilty of past errors of privacy as part of the agreement, according to people familiar with the case.

The settlement will conclude an FTC probe about whether Facebook violates the terms of a previous FTC order announced in 201

1, where the company promised to protect consumer information and be transparent about how it uses personal information.

A number of misconducts over the past few years have raised questions about Facebook's compliance with the previous settlement, especially the known disclosure last year that tens of millions of Facebook users' data had made their way into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm working for President Trumps campaign.

The treatment of Mr. Zuckerberg has been a crucial issue for both the FTC and Facebook during the negotiations, and the result could be seen as a victory by both sides. Facebook avoids responsibility for Mr. Zuckerberg based on previously alleged misdemeanors, and avoids a long trial if the case goes to court.

Mr. Zuckerberg was not personally interviewed by the FTC as part of the probe, a person familiar with the case said.

For the FTC, especially the agency's Republican leadership, the forward-looking claims of Mr. Zuckerberg represent a way of showing it holding the powerful CEO personally responsible.

Since some details of the deal were divulged in recent weeks, the FTC has been criticized to a large extent by the fact that a financial penalty, however large it would not be enough to deter the profitable social media giant from future violations on privacy.

The settlement was recently approved by the FTC's five-member board member with 3-2 votes, people are familiar with the case, with three Republicans voting for and two Democrats disagreeing.

The company is also expected to create a new board committee with a focus on privacy, to strengthen senior management at the company.

Even with the provisions regarding Mr. Zuckerberg, the deal may not satisfy Facebook's highest critics, encouraging regulators to take more urgent steps such as limiting Facebook's data collection or breaking up the company.

While Facebook has become the main target for critics, other major corporations have also been drawn into the privacy crossroads.

Just this week, the FTC took action against

Equifax
Inc.

over a massive data breach affecting tens of millions of Americans. The agency's settlement brought out a civilian penalty of up to $ 700 million from the company.

The FTC is expected to settle another high-profile case soon

Alphabet
Inc.

device YouTube for allegedly infringing children's privacy rights online.

Share your thoughts

What additional steps would you ask Facebook to take to ensure user privacy? Join the conversation below.

In context, the recent case suggests that the agency is planning to strengthen its highly malicious online privacy enforcement efforts, hoping to avert critics who have called for a new federal privacy agency.

Federal anti-trust enforcement agencies, including the FTC and the Justice Department, have also begun preparing for antitrust investigations involving big tech. Legislators and some presidential candidates also seem increasingly interested in taking aggressive new measures against potential antitrust violations from major technology companies.

The FTC's Facebook settlement – which has already been panned by the privacy advocates – can further provide the call for major antitrust control by big tech.

The Online Privacy Information Center, a lawyer group that formerly assisted in causing an FTC Privacy Statement in 2011 against Facebook, said the FTC should break up the company by forcing it to relax the procurement of Instagram and WhatsApp.

Write to Ryan Tracy at ryan.tracy@wsj.com and John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com

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