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United States v. Facebook

On July 24, 2019, the federal government proposed a consent decree to settle multiple claims that Facebook had violated a 2012 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) order and the FTC Act by misrepresenting the extent to which users could control facial-recognition templates and other user data, misrepresenting the extent to which Facebook made user data available to others, failing to maintain a reasonable privacy program, and collecting consumers’ phone numbers for account-security purposes and then using those numbers for the targeting of advertisements. The government sought approval for the agreement from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Public Citizen, with Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Common Sense Media, and U.S. PIRG, filed an amicus brief in the district court opposing the proposed consent decree. The brief focused on the proposed decree’s broad release clause, which would release any claim that Facebook violated the 2012 FTC order before June 12, 2019, and any consumer-protection claim against Facebook, under section 5 of the FTC Act, known by the FTC prior to June 12, 2019. The brief argued that because of the release clause’s breadth, the proposed consent decree was not fair or reasonable and should be rejected by the court.

On April 23, 2020, however, the district court approved the proposed settlement and entered the parties’ stipulated order.