Updated Mar 22, 2018

Ex-regulators say Facebook's steps won't stop federal investigations

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.

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Virus vices take a toll on Americans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are doubling down on their worst habits to cope with the mental and emotional stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on health of the American people, in part due to the habits they will pick up during the weeks and months they are forced to stay home.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 1,203,923 — Total deaths: 64,795 — Total recoveries: 247,273Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 312,237 — Total deaths: 8,502 — Total recoveries: 14,997Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. The virus is hitting poor, minority communities harder and upending childbirth.
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August."
  5. Business updates: Restaurants step up for health care workers. Employees are pressuring companies to provide protections during coronavirus.
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Education update: Many college-age students won't get coronavirus relief checks.
  8. 1 🏀 thing: The WNBA postpones start of training camps and season.
  9. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1.2 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The number of novel coronavirus cases surpassed 1.2 million worldwide Saturday night, as Spain overtook Italy as the country with the most infections outside the U.S.

The big picture: About half the planet's population is now on lockdown and the global death toll was nearing 64,800, by Sunday morning, per Johns Hopkins data.

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