US$5 billion fine set for Facebook
US regulators have approved a $5 billion penalty to be levied on Facebook to settle a probe into the social network’s privacy and data protection lapses, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The newspaper said the Federal Trade Commission approved the settlement in a 3-2 vote, with the two Democratic members of the consumer protection agency dissenting. According to the report, the deal, which would be the largest penalty ever imposed by the FTC for privacy violations, still needs approval from the Justice Department before it is finalized.
Although details have not yet been released, the deal will likely include restrictions on how Facebook is able to use personal data. Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge thinks it is unlikely the restrictions will be overly harsh. “We don’t yet know key aspects of the settlement: whether Facebook must make any changes to its business model or practices as a result,” said Charlotte Slaiman, the group’s Competition Policy Counsel.
“By itself, this fine will not be sufficient to change Facebook’s behavior.” The outlook was more optimistic at the Center for Democracy and Technology, whose president Nuala O’Connor said the fine underscored the importance of “data stewardship” in the digital age.
“The FTC has put all companies on notice that they must safeguard personal information,” O’Connor said. Facebook did not immediately respond to an AFP query on the agreement. Unlikely to hurt The FTC announced last year it reopened its investigation into a 2011 privacy settlement with Facebook after revelations that personal data on tens of millions of users was hijacked by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which was working on the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.
Facebook has also faced questions about whether it improperly shared user data with business partners in violation of the earlier settlement. The leading social network with more than two billion users worldwide has also been facing inquiries on privacy from authorities in US states and regulators around the world.
The settlement would be in line with Facebook’s estimate earlier this year when it said it expected to pay $3 billion to $5 billion for legal settlements on “user data practices.”