The DOJ and FTC announced recently that they would begin investigations into Facebook’s business practices in order to determine if Facebook has engaged in operations that violate the anti-trust provisions.
While the commencement of the investigation is a welcome development to attempt to curb the unfettered and outsized power of Facebook, the regulators are going to need to conduct a backward-looking investigation. When they do, it will become apparent that by their inaction, they helped create the Facebook Leviathan.
Here is a synopsis of what has happened over the past decade.
Regulators, and politicians were asleep at the helm while Facebook engaged in a rampant exercise of bad faith by purloining and misappropriating users’ private information with not so much as a word of disclosure about how their personal data was being leveraged by the company to earn billions of dollars. This chicanery continued unabated for over ten-years and occurred without a scintilla of disclosure to users.
The rise of Facebook will be viewed by historians as one of the greatest instances of corporate knavery and malfeasance in American history. In terms of economic power and the far-reaching scope of its influence, Facebook makes the robber barons of yesteryear, by comparison, look like lemonade stand operators.
During its rise, the company either crushed or acquired any potential competition. These predatory practices were ratified by somnolent regulators and congressional Republicans, reticent about interfering with a profitable private company’s business affairs. Little did they know their inaction would greatly facilitate Facebook’s unheralded rise.
In order to atone for their negligence, regulators should focus on the galling privacy abuses and how Facebook intentionally failed to notify users that their private data was constantly being subject to risk. The dirty little secret, as experience has now amply demonstrated, is that users’ private data, Facebook’s pious assertions to the contrary, is always going to be at risk.