FTC Facebook settlement: $5 billion fine reported for user privacy violations

Marco Green
July 13, 2019

The Federal Trade Commission is expected to hit Facebook with a record-setting $5 billion fine for its alleged privacy mishaps.

The FTC opened its Facebook probe in March 2018, following reports that Cambridge Analytica had hoovered up the personal data of almost 90 million Facebook users to better target them with political ads during the 2016 presidential election.

The staggering penalty, which was approved on a 3-2 vote with Republicans in support of it and Democrats against, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), dwarfs the previous record-holder, Google, which in 2012 was fined $22.5 million by the FTC for misleading users on how they could limit online tracking tools. The fine would be the largest the FTC has levied on a tech company.

With Facebook having reported $15 billion in revenue last quarter, the $5 billion fine would amount to one month's worth of revenue.

Some have called on the FTC to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally liable for the privacy violations in some way, but based on the party line vote breakdown experts said this is not likely.

But the deal may also include other government restrictions on how Facebook handles and regulates user privacy. Democrats on the commission were "pushing for tougher oversight", the Journal wrote.

The settlement still needs to be finalized by the Justice Department's Civil Division and a final announcement could come as early as next week, the source said.

That scandal revealed that a data mining firm affiliated with US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign may have improperly accessed private information from as many as 87 million Facebook users through a quiz app. Nevertheless, its controls have remained leaky. Around the time the news broke this afternoon, Facebook share prices jumped from around $202 per share to $205.27, its highest price in the past year, and the sort of spike that often signals confidence from Wall Street. Facebook's shares closed at 204.87 dollars on Friday and added 24 cents after hours.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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