Facebook to be slapped $5 bn penalty over privacy issue

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a $5 billion settlement with Facebook this week over its investigation into the social media company’s handling of user data, Reuters reported.
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The penalty follows FTC’s investigations on Facebook after it shared personal information of 87 million users with the UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The probe has focused on whether the data sharing violated a 2011 consent agreement between Facebook and the regulator.

The FTC is expected to include in the settlement other restrictions on how Facebook treats user privacy, Wall Street Journal reported.

The settlement would be the largest civil penalty ever paid to the agency.

Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat and chair of a congressional antitrust panel, called the $5 billion penalty “a Christmas present five months early.”

“This fine is a fraction of Facebook’s annual revenue. It won’t make them think twice about their responsibility to protect user data,” he said.

Facebook’s revenue for the first quarter of this year was $15.1 billion while its net income was $2.43 billion. Facebook has already set aside $3 billion during the first quarter for the FTC penalty.

The Silicon Valley firm still faces further potential antitrust probes as the FTC and Justice Department undertake a wide-ranging review of competition among the biggest U.S. tech companies.

It is also facing public criticism from President Donald Trump and others about its planned cryptocurrency Libra over concerns about privacy and money laundering.

Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Republican, in a letter to the FTC earlier this year, told the agency that even a $5 billion civil penalty was too little and that top officials, potentially including founder Mark Zuckerberg, should be held personally responsible.

FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, a Democrat, has said the agency should hold executives responsible for violations of consent decrees if they participated in the violations.

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 report said.

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