FTC Considers Record Fine Against Facebook for Privacy Violations

Elias Hubbard
January 19, 2019

U.S. regulators are contemplating the record-setting penalty because they allege the social media giant violated an agreement with the government to protect the privacy of its users' personal information, the Washington Post reported.

The Federal Trade Commission has been probing Facebook since previous year.

The FTC's exact findings in its Facebook investigation and the total amount of the fine, which the agency's five commissioners have discussed at a private meeting in recent weeks, have not been finalized, two of the people said.

The agency could not be reached for a comment due to the government shutdown.

Facebook has talked with FTC staff about the investigation, one of the people familiar with the probe told the Post. A representative for the watchdog agency did not return a request for comment.

According to US-based media reports, for years Facebook provided users' personal data to more than 150 companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and Netflix, effectively exempting its business partners from Facebook's own privacy rules. Another New York Times report in late December claimed that thousands of Facebook content moderators rely on inaccurate and disorganised information to determine what content to allow or remove from its platform, accusing the platform of being "ad hoc", "disorganized", "secretive", and doing things "on the cheap". The agreement required the company to solicit permission from users before their data is shared with third parties beyond the ways that are set out in existing privacy settings. The data firm, which had ties to the Trump campaign, improperly harnessed personal information about the social networking site's users to better target voters with political messages.

In April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress after British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica gained access to data of almost 87 million users without permission. The revelation placed Facebook under unprecedented congressional and regulatory scrutiny.

The scandal resulted in Facebook's shares plummeting more than 20% and a public outcry which forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the Congress in April 2018.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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