Facebook could be facing fines to the tune of billions of dollars due to the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into the social media giant’s mishandling of user data. Facebook and the FTC are currently in discussion over the actual and final amount of the fine, which is yet to be finalised. If the two parties cannot come to an agreement, then the FTC will be taking Facebook to court.
The fine being levied is due to Facebook’s past mishandling of user information and numerous practices of sharing user data with third-parties. The FTC’s probe into Facebook began in March of 2018 after the revelation of the social media giant’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, where over 87 million users’ data was improperly accessed by the third-party firm. Since then, there have been multiple lapses on Facebook’s part in protecting user privacy, putting an end to political propaganda and manipulation and even disclosure of privacy violation. All this, the FTC says, is a violation of the 2011 agreement that was agreed upon by Facebook and the FTC to improve its privacy practices. Facebook maintains that it did not violate any such agreement.
The agreement between the FTC and Facebook made in 2011 stipulated that the social media company be more transparent about how users’ personal data was being used and shared with third-parties. The agreement also clearly disallowed Facebook from using language that was designed to deceive or downplay its privacy practices. Under the agreement, the FTC would ensure this by administering regular checks and audits of Facebook If found to be in violation, FTC would be well within its rights to issue a fine for the violations noted.
The Washington Post reports that the fine would most likely be to the tune of several billion dollars, the highest that any company would pay after an FTC investigation. The current record for the highest fine is a $22.5 million fine paid by Google in 2012 as part of a settlement. If the FTC has its way, the fine would be a large one, as a means of setting a precedent for the future. Whatever fine is mutually decided between the FTC and Facebook would have to be approved by a Judge. In case the two cannot reach a settlement, the FTC is well within its rights to take the social media company to court.