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


The Federal Trade Commission has voted to fine Facebook a record-breaking $5 billion following a long-running investigation into the tech giant's repeated failure's to protect its users' privacy, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The Journal's report said that the FTC settlement will include "government restrictions on how Facebook treats user privacy", however, it remains unclear what those restrictions entail.

The FTC started looking into Facebook last March, after news reports that Facebook had allowed Cambridge Analytica, a social media data firm that worked on President Trump's 2016 campaign, to collect data from millions of users without their knowledge. The settlement would easily surpass the FTC's largest financial penalty to date, which was a $22.5 million fine against Google in 2012.

Since a year ago, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the FTC has been probing whether Facebook violated a 2011 privacy consent decree that obligated the company to take steps to protect its users' privacy.

The punishment follows months of negotiations between the two and is the largest penalty ever levelled by the department in its history.

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) civil division will now review the matter in accordance with FTC procedure before finalizing the decision.

The FTC and Facebook declined to comment.

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The Cambridge Analytica breach came as one of many leaks for the social-media giant, only adding to the FTC's grievances.

In 2011, Facebook assured the FTC that it would not share data with third parties without consent.

The announcement of this Facebook fine is the culmination of nearly a year-and-a-half of investigations into the company, which included a heavily-publicized testimony in front of Congress by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook also faces a lawsuit from the D.C. attorney general and other states over the privacy debacle.

In late April, Facebook told investors it was expecting a fine of $3 billion to $5 billion over its privacy scandals.

The final settlement is supposedly directly related to a scandal involving London-Based Cambridge Analytica as well as a series of leaks of app users private records onto a public database, which is prohibited by Facebook's own policies.

Facebook's revenue for the first quarter of this year was $15.1 billion (roughly Rs. 1,02,840 crores) while its net income was $2.43 billion (roughly Rs. 16,660 crores). The deal is likely to leave many critics of the company unsatisfied given the agency's two Democratic commissioners, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Rohit Chopra, voted against it.