US authorities are reportedly considering imposing a record-setting fine against Facebook after the data of tens of millions of its users was harvested by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
The Federal Trade Commission, the US’ privacy and security watchdog, is looking to punish Facebook for mishandling its users’ data, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing sources familiar with the situation. According to the newspaper, the penalty is likely to exceed the $22.5 million fine the regulator imposed on Google in 2012 for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple’s Safari browser.
The five members of the commission, which has been scrutinizing Facebook since March 2018, are said to have met in mid-December, according to the New York Times. The newspaper’s sources claim that the meeting is a sign that the investigation is far along. Consumer-protection and enforcement staff members have reportedly provided the commissioners with updates on alleged privacy violations but the final report is still to come.
The FTC is probing whether Facebook violated terms of a consent decree, which the privacy watchdog and Facebook agreed upon back in November 2011.
The agreement obliges Facebook to obtain users’ permission before sharing their data with third parties. Breaching the settlement would cost Facebook up to $40,000 per user per day, which can easily add up to billions, if not trillions, of dollars.
The scandal resulted in Facebook’s shares plummeting more than 20% and a public outcry which forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the Congress in April 2018.
Following the data breach row, Facebook’s management apologized for the mistakes and suspended Cambridge Analytica and 200 more third-party apps.
Things are however far from going well for Facebook, as NYT revealed in December that the social media giant allegedly allowed unhindered access to its users’ messages, email addresses, and other data as part of deals with major companies like Netflix and Spotify.
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