After the news on Friday that the Federal Trade Commission is close to finalizing a settlement with his company for a mere $5 billion, Zuckerberg has got to be feeling similarly untouchable. If, after all the privacy and security fiascos Facebook admitted to over the past two years — including, but not limited to, the Cambridge Analytica scandal — it gets off with such a small penalty, he’s got to think he probably could get away with murder.
Of course, Zuckerberg’s felt he could act with impunity for years. When Harvard students uploaded photos and other personal information to his newly launched Facebook site soon after it launched, he notoriously derided them as “dumb f—s” and offered to share with a friend such details of anyone of interest to the person. He repeatedly pushed privacy boundaries in terms of the data Facebook collected from its users and what it did with that information. When controversies arose about that — as they repeatedly did — the company simply took a step back only to quietly push forward again soon thereafter.
Even a previous FTC investigation proved to be little more than a hiccup. The settlement in that case resulted in no fine. While it was supposed to restrict some of Facebook’s activities and protect users’ privacy, it turned out to do very little of either. Despite numerous complaints from privacy advocates that the company was violating the terms of the settlement, the FTC didn’t take any enforcement actions against the social-networking giant.