Facebook may have to pay its highest amount in a fine for violating the personal information of its 2.2 billion users.
The U.S Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering slapping Facebook with a penalty that would top its previous record amount which was US$22.5 million dealt to Google in 2012.
Google was fined for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple’s Safari browser, according to The Washington Post.
The potential fine stems from an FTC investigation opened after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica had obtained details about as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.
The FTC has been exploring whether that massive breakdown violated a settlement that Facebook reached in 2011 after government regulators had concluded the Menlo Park, California, company had repeatedly broken its privacy promises.
The FTC decree, which runs through 2031, requires Facebook to get its users’ consent to share their personal information in ways that aren’t allowed by their privacy settings.
Since the Cambridge Analytica erupted 10 months ago, Facebook has vowed to do a better job corralling its users’ data. Nevertheless, its controls have remained leaky.
Just last month, the company acknowledged a software flaw had exposed the photos of about 7 million users to a wider audience than they had intended.
The FTC’s five commissioners have discussed fining Facebook but haven’t settled on the amount yet, according to the Post.
In 2012, Facebook entered into an agreement with the FTC that it had deceived its users by telling them that certain information would be kept private, when it was not.
The company had made information, like lists of friends and published posts, available to the public and capable of being shared without the consent of its users. This is likely the agreement the FTC regulators now believe Facebook has violated.
Following Cambridge Analytica and similar incidents, for example one where a hacker managed to access the personal information of 29 million accounts, members of Congress and advocacy groups have called on the FTC to take action.
“Serious consequences are the only way to curb Facebook’s predatory behavior and change the industry’s amoral pursuit of growth at the public’s expense,” Free Press, a media and technology advocacy group, said in a statement.
“This action should be the first of many taken by regulators and Congress in response to online platforms’ systemic abuse of their users.”
According to the Post, the findings of the Facebook investigation and the total amount of the fine have not been finalized.
Facebook has met with FTC investigators throughout the past year, but it isn’t clear whether the company would accept the fine that the agency is anticipated to impose.
The FTC has been shut down since last month and nonessential employees have been furloughed. The agency did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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