Facebook's FTC settlement points toward a future for privacy regulation

Oversight boards, independent audits and compliance certification could soon become the norm for every major company that collects user data.
Image: People on phones next to a Facebook logo projection on March 28.
Dado Ruvic / Reuters file

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By Dylan Byers

Good morning. 🏛️ Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees today. Coverage begins on NBC News at 8:15 a.m. ET and on MSNBC at 8:30 a.m. ET.

What Dems want: Mueller to say that President Donald Trump could have been charged with obstruction if not for Justice Department guidelines that protect him from prosecution.

Join the Market.


Future of tech regulation: Sarbanes-Oxley for privacy

Moving the Market: The Federal Trade Commission will formally announce a settlement with Facebook today that includes a record-setting $5 billion fine as well as the creation of new Sarbanes-Oxley-like privacy measures, sources familiar with the matter tell me.

The big picture: Facebook will have a privacy oversight board and be subject to privacy audits, while Mark Zuckerberg will be asked to personally certify privacy statements, much as corporate leaders have to certify financial statements.

The big cost: The measures won't fundamentally change Facebook's business, but they will require it to invest significantly in engineers and other staff to ensure compliance.

Today's schedule of events:

• The FTC is expected to announce the settlement this morning before market close, when Facebook reports quarterly earnings. It will also voice new complaints about specific privacy violations.

• Facebook will likely cite the fine as a major punishment and the oversight board as a rigorous safeguard against future violations.

• Critics will argue that the fine isn't punitive enough and that the oversight board won't fundamentally change Facebook's behavior.

Both sides are right, to a point: $5 billion is a massive fine by FTC standards (it last fined Google $22.5 million for improperly tracking users) but ultimately one Facebook can afford.

• Meanwhile, the oversight measures could create significant structural changes for Facebook's privacy efforts, as outlined above, but won't fundamentally alter its business model.

What's next: A Sarbanes-Oxley for privacy — oversight boards, independent audits and compliance certification — could soon become the norm for every major company that collects user data, ushering in a new era of privacy compliance for all major firms.


Bill Barr probes tech antitrust

Big in the Bay, big in the Beltway: "The Justice Department is opening a broad antitrust review into whether dominant technology firms are unlawfully stifling competition... adding a new Washington threat for companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple," department officials tell WSJ's Brent Kendall.

The big picture: "The new antitrust inquiry is the strongest signal yet of Attorney General William Barr’s deep interest in the tech sector, and it could ratchet up the already considerable regulatory pressures facing the top U.S. tech firms."

• "The Justice Department will examine issues including how the most dominant tech firms have grown in size and might... expanded their reach into additional businesses... [and] leveraged the powers that come with having very large networks of users."

What's next: "There is no defined end-goal yet for the Big Tech review other than to understand whether there are antitrust problems that need addressing, but a broad range of options are on the table, the officials said."


Talk of the Trail

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

Right on time: @EWarren: "Big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google wield enormous, monopolistic power. I've been saying that we need to #BreakUpBigTech for a long time and I support a legitimate antitrust investigation into these companies."


Evan Spiegel beats the spread

Big in Santa Monica, big on the Street: Snap chief Evan Spiegel beat revenue expectations and reported a record-setting addition of 13 million daily active Snapchat users in the second quarter, bringing its overall daily active user base to 203 million.

• This is Snap's second-straight quarter of growth, and a signal that it has fully emerged from a long year of decline following its disastrous Android redesign in early 2018. Shares have surged a whopping 181 percent since December.

• Snap has achieved that growth by focusing on the creation of new features like augmented reality lenses, new content offerings and a new gaming platform. It is also launching a new advertising service that allows ads to run on other apps.

• "The growth in our community, engagement and revenue is the result of several transitions we completed over the past 18 months,” Spiegel in a statement. “We look forward to building on our momentum and making significant ongoing progress."

The big picture: Snap is taking a "riskier" approach to growth than Facebook and Instagram, Bloomberg's Sarah Frier reports, "focusing less on network size and more on creative content to keep people entertained as they communicate."

What's next: Spiegel anticipates that Snapchat will reach as many as 207 million users next quarter.


Market Links

Tim Cook prioritizes Apple's own apps in the App store (WSJ)

Marc Benioff sees Salesforce stock lose its edge (Information)

Adam Neumann will take WeWork public in September (WSJ)

Dara Khosrowshahi strikes a delivery deal with Starbucks (TC)

Bryan Goldberg continues his media acquisition spree (Digiday)


Reed Hastings feels the heat

Talk of Tinseltown: "Netflix's disappointing quarter reported last Wednesday has caused the streaming darling of Wall Street to shed more than $24 billion in value in six days as the stock has sunk 15 percent," THR's Paul Bond reports.

• "Shares of Netflix have now fallen each of the last nine trading days, as the stock began its downfall even before it released its quarterly financial report, which indicated it lost subscribers in the U.S. [and] added just 2.7 million subscribers worldwide."

The big picture: "Shares have surged 3,300 percent in less than nine years, but analysts don't expect anything near that sort of return going forward, and the heavy volume of trading over the past nine days suggests many investors are cashing in on their big gains."


The box office, revisited

Revisionist history: After "Avengers: Endgame" took the title for highest-grossing film of all time, CNBC's Sarah Whitten got in touch with the measurement and analytics folks at Comscore to find out which film would take the title if Hollywood adjusted for inflation.

"Here are the top 10 highest-grossing films if Hollywood did adjust the box office based on modern ticket prices in the U.S."

10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)• Est. adjusted gross: $982 million

9. The Exorcist (1973)• Est. adjusted gross: $1.04 billion

8. Doctor Zhivago (1965)• Est. adjusted gross: $1.12 billion

7. Jaws (1975)• Est. adjusted gross: $1.15 billion

6. The Ten Commandments (1956)• Est. adjusted gross: $1.18 billion

5. Titanic (1997)Est. adjusted gross: $1.29 billion

Click here for the final four....


🎞️ What next: Quentin Tarantino’s "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" will do battle with Disney’s “The Lion King” at the domestic box office this weekend.

Bonus: THR's Chris Gardner takes you inside this week's premiere at the Chinese Theatre.

See you tomorrow.