Rohit Chopra, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is laying the groundwork to rein in Facebook and other big tech companies with expanded oversight — and potentially public rebuke — over how they collect and sell consumer data.
Meta Platforms’ Facebook has long been in Chopra’s sights. He wrote a scathing rebuke of what he called Facebook’s “illegal data practices” in 2019 while serving on the Federal Trade Commission.
At the time, Chopra lamented that the FTC’s $5 billion settlement with Facebook over privacy violations was too small given the social media giant’s status as a repeat offender of regulatory orders. Chopra wanted CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to be held personally accountable and called for more restrictions on the tech giant’s advertising practices.
Since taking control of the CFPB in October, Chopra has taken several steps to strengthen the CFPB’s power to designate Facebook or any other Big Tech company as posing a risk to consumers.
“It is clearly one of Director Chopra’s desires to bring Big Tech companies under CFPB regulatory oversight,” said Jenny Lee, partner at ArentFox Schiff. “It’s a new accent and there’s half a dozen ways to go after Big Tech.”
Over the past few months, Chopra has deployed an arsenal of tools against big financial firms informed by its analysis of the FTC’s Facebook settlement. He dug into the CFPB’s vast authority, found arcane new mechanisms to use, and exposed existing Dodd-Frank rules to shine a light on Facebook’s consumer practices.
The CFPB declined to comment for this story, and Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
Taking action on any Facebook, which generated $86 billion in revenue last year, appears to be a priority, though it could strain CFPB resources and come at the expense of other enforcement actions.
“It looks like he’s taking his time putting the chess pieces on the board,” said Richard Horn, co-managing partner at Garris Horn and former senior counsel and special adviser to the CFPB. “That’s probably why we haven’t seen a lot of enforcement action, in terms of quantity, because these investigations require a ton of research and back and forth between CFPB attorneys and Big Tech companies in general. .”
Here are the top five ways the CFPB could use its authority to enforce laws against Facebook and other tech companies.