Facebook fined with $5 billion over privacy issues in the US

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The penalty of $5 billion being imposed on Facebook in connection with the Cambridge Analytica scandal is the biggest penalty imposed by the FTC after it imposed a fine of $22.5 million on Google in 2012.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • FTC is likely to impose a penalty of $5 billion on Facebook.
  • FTC had been probing Facebook over privacy violations pertaining to Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • Penalty on Facebook has to be approved by Justice Department’s civil division.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a penalty of $5 billion on Facebook following an year-long probe into the company’s privacy practices that began after reports of Cambridge Analytica, a United Kingdom based political consultancy firm accessing the personal information of 87 million Facebook users without their permission, came into light. FTC’s probe focused on whether the data sharing violated a 2011 agreement between Facebook and the federal agency.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, a Republican majority backed the fine on Facebook with the commission voting 3-2 in favour of the agreement. The settlement which still has to be approved by the Justice Department’s civil division, will be the largest fine imposed by the federal organisation after it imposed a fine of $22.5 million on Google for “misrepresenting to users of Apple Safari Internet browser that it would not place tracking cookies or serve targeted ads to those users, violating an earlier privacy settlement between the company and the FTC”, back in 2012.

Notably, several lawmakers and privacy advocates have expressed displeasure over the fine that the regulator has decided to impose on the social media giant. Congressman David Cicilline, who is also the chair of a congressional antitrust panel, called the 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 in a statement to Reuters.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who in the recent past has been a strong proponent of breaking down big tech companies which includes Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon, called the penalty a ‘victory for Facebook’.

“The FTC just voted to let Facebook off easy with a $5 billion settlement for compromising the data of tens of millions of Americans and allowing our elections to be improperly influenced,” she wrote in a tweet.

“Let’s be honest: this settlement is a victory for Facebook. Just look to the markets. In the first 15 minutes after the settlement was reported, Facebook’s market value went up by more than $5 billion,” she added in another tweet.

Notably, the fine comes nearly two months after Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes called for breaking up the social media giant in a op-ed published in the New York Times. In his opinion piece, Hughes had also blamed the FTC for allowing Facebook to acquire WhatsApp and Instagram and in the process killing innovation in the field.


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