Facebook fined $5bn by US Federal Trade Commission

15 Jul 2019

Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

The FTC has doled out its largest fine on record to Facebook for the mishandling of user data.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a fine against Facebook in the region of $5bn as recompense for various privacy and data protection missteps. The settlement is primarily in relation to the heavily publicised Cambridge Analytica scandal, which came to light last year, though the company has reported a number of breaches and leaks subsequent to that.

The FTC passed the settlement in a 3-2 vote, with the Republican majority backing the agreement while two Democratic commissioners objected, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.

Other reports claim that alongside the fine, Facebook will be required to document how it plans to use data prior to launching new products in the future, though also note that the new conditions do not limit Facebook’s ability to collect and share data with third parties.

Now, the matter has been moved to the US Department of Justice Civil Division and will take an indeterminate amount of time to be finalised.

Though the fine is the largest ever meted out in the history of the FTC, some commentators have criticised the move, pointing out that Facebook’s stock price was buoyed by the development, shooting up almost 2pc.

Facebook reported Q1 revenues of $15bn earlier this year, up 26pc year on year. In this previous earnings report, it indicated that it was setting aside between $3bn and $5bn in anticipation of the FTC settlement.

US senators and Congress representatives have already come out in droves to express their distaste at the fine, which David Cicilline went so far as to say was a “Christmas present” given five months early.

Meanwhile, senator and US 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren dubbed the settlement “a victory for Facebook” and reiterated her believe that the FTC needs to break up Facebook.

This echoes explosive statements made by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in May of this year. Hughes penned a New York Times opinion piece in which he said that CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s influence goes “far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government”.

Facebook could not be reached for comment at time of publication.

View of Facebook app loading screen on smartphone. Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic