Facebook, FTC Said to Be in Talks on Multibillion-Dollar Fine

(CN) – To address privacy lapses brought to light in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission are reportedly negotiating a multibillion-dollar fine.

The fine would be the largest one ever imposed on a technology company, according to a report published Thursday evening by The Washington Post. The story, citing two unnamed sources, said both sides have yet to determine the exact amount. Should negotiations be cut short, Facebook could likely face a lengthy legal battle if the FTC takes the matter to court.

Facebook has had to deal with the fallout from several high-profile privacy lapses over the past few years, which have compromised the privacy of its users. The FTC began an investigation into the social media company’s privacy practices in March 2018, following the news that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica gained unauthorized access to the personal information of 87 million Facebook users.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The firm was hired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and funded by Republican donor Robert Mercer and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Cambridge Analytica used a personality quiz and app to scrape the private information of users and friends of the users. Though only about 270,000 Facebook users took the quiz, the app was able to access the data of millions more.

Facebook entered into an agreement in 2011 with the FTC, promising to improve its privacy policies and protect user data from unauthorized access. The current probe is investigating whether Facebook kept up its end of the bargain.

Should a multibillion-dollar fine be levied against the social media giant, it would dwarf the previous amount the FTC has fined a tech company. In 2012, Google paid a $22.5 million penalty for falsely stating to users of Apple’s Safari browser that it would not track their website visits or use targeted ads on those users. Under Facebook’s agreement with the FTC, the company is required to have better transparency about how it shares users’ data with third-party businesses.

Congressional lawmakers have stepped up to Facebook as well. In April of last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by both members of the U.S. House and Senate over the company’s privacy practices involving Cambridge Analytica and Russian information operations.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake,” Zuckerberg told congressional members in a public apology. “And it was my mistake and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Facebook confirmed to The Post that it is in talks with the FTC.

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