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Facebook has struggled to keep up with criticism of its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Former FTC consumer protection enforcers say Facebook's response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal won't be enough to keep federal investigators at bay.

Why it matters: European and U.S. officials are probing Facebook over the situation and have the ability to levy big fines on the company — and further damage its reputation.

The details: Facebook is now facing a reported FTC probe, investigations by multiple state attorneys general and questions from officials in Europe, after allegations that Cambridge Analytica illicitly gathered user Facebook data through a contractor and may not have deleted it when it told Facebook it had.

What they're saying: Two former FTC officials who raised early concerns to the Washington Post about Facebook violating that privacy pact told Axios they didn't think these steps would stop the hammer from coming down on the social network.

  • "Just because they make changes moving forward doesn’t mean they can’t be investigated or sued for what they did before," said Jessica Rich, who stepped down early last year as the head of the agency's Consumer Protection Bureau.
  • "No, these changes are salutary, helpful and long overdue, but I don’t think that they will deter the FTC from imposing a very substantial civil penalty on Facebook should the Commission find, as I expect it will, that Facebook violated the consent decree with the FTC," said David Vladeck, who led the Bureau when Facebook signed the agreement.

Rich is bullish, too, that something comes of the FTC's investigation. “Based on the multiple potential legal theories here for pursuing Facebook, I would put the odds high that there is some enforcement action that occurs by the FTC," she said. "And I would put the odds at virtually 100 percent that between the states and the European countries there’s some action against Facebook for this incident and the underlying practices that it reveals.”

Yes, but: The FTC has not always been interested in aggressive enforcement against technology companies — and Republicans leaders of the agency can be especially wary of going after big business. The agency also lacks a permanent leader, since President Trump's nominee to chair it has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

The other side: "We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have,” said Rob Sherman, Facebook's Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, in a statement this week.

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

10 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.