Social media giant Facebook could be facing a multi-billion dollar fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or face a law suit, according to the Washington Post.
The FTC started investigating Facebook in March 2018, after reports that up to 87 million users’ information was shared with Cambridge Analytica.
“Facebook faces a moment of reckoning and the only way it will come is through an FTC order with severe penalties and other sanctions that stop this kind of privacy misconduct going forward,” said Democratic Sen Richard Blumenthal (Conn.).
This is not the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook. In 2011, the FTC and Facebook agreed that the social media platform had “deceived” their users by leading them to believe their Facebook data was private when in fact on many occasions they allowed this information to be shared and be made public. Facebook did not receive a fine, but the FTC set guidelines stating that Facebook had to inform and seek permission from users before sharing information that breached a users’ security settings.
The FTC Chairman, Jon Leibowitz had commented at the time, “Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users,”…”Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.”
The current investigation will serve to determine if Facebook has breached the 2011 FTC agreement. If Facebook is found to be in violation of the agreement, the size of the fine will be dependent on how many terms have been violated, how often this occurred and the degree of severity with which they were violated.
Facebook has already undergone scrutiny with the UK’s data protection watchdog back in October 2018. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said Facebook had let a “serious breach” of the law take place. Facebook was fined the maximum, £500,000 ($652,200), allowed under the old data protection rules that applied before GDPR took effect in May 2018.
It has been speculated that Facebook could be looking at the largest fine the FTC has ever imposed on a technology company. The most substantial fine to date is $22.5 million to Google in 2012, when it discovered they had bypassed Apple’s internet privacy settings to direct advertising to users.