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Facebook dodged bullet from FTC, but faces more pain in global fights

SFGate Monday, 15 July 2019
LONDON — After Facebook was hit Friday with a fine of around $5 billion for privacy violations, critics said it escaped largely unscathed: The settlement neither bruised its bottom line nor severely restricted its ability to collect people’s data.

Even if the Menlo Park company dodged that bullet, its pain was just beginning.

Regulators and lawmakers in Washington, Europe and in countries including Canada have begun multiple investigations and proposing new restrictions against Facebook that will probably embroil it in policy debates and legal wrangling for years to come. And in some of these places, the authorities are increasingly coordinating to form a more united front against the company.

In the United States, the potential for a federal antitrust investigation looms, several state attorneys general have initiated investigations of the company, and members of Congress are considering a federal privacy law and other restrictions. Not to mention that President Trump has turned up the heat on Facebook and other tech behemoths, including on Friday when he said the platforms were “dishonest” and “crooked” and that “something is going to be done.”

That momentum will be on display this week on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust plans to hold a hearing featuring executives from Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google about the power of the firms. That same day, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hear from David Marcus, a top Facebook executive, on the company’s Libra cryptocurrency project, which lawmakers have criticized and questioned.

In Europe, Facebook faces sanctions for breaking the region’s strict privacy laws, and the European Commission is in the early stages of an antitrust investigation against the company. In Britain, where a parliamentary...

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