Facebook is not exactly a pillar of privacy, that much is clear based on its history of blunders and subsequent apologies. Things may have finally come to a head, however, as the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mulls slapping Facebook with the agency's biggest privacy fine to date, which would exceed the $22.5 million fine it hit Google with back in 2012.
The FTC launched an investigation into Facebook's practices last year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light. Now defunct, Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting agency that managed to acquire personal data of around 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge. This resulted in large part because of inadequate app policies on Facebook's part.
Now nearly a year later, several people who are supposedly familiar with matter told The Washington Post that US regulators have met to discuss fining Facebook for allegedly breaking an agreement with the FTC. If this happens, it would be the first major fine imposed on Facebook, and the largest ever issued by the agency for breaking a privacy agreement.
The exact amount of the fine has not yet been established, though the FTC's five commissioners have already met and discussed it at a private meeting, according to the sources. It's expected that the FTC will vote on a formal recommendation soon.
It's said that Facebook has already talked with the FTC about its investigation. There is the potential that Facebook could settle with the agency, though even if it does, the penalty would likely still be a significant one.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, is urging the FTC to move forward with a penalty. "The agency now has the legal authority, the evidence, and the public support to act. There can be no excuse for further delay," Rotenberg said.
Facebook and other tech giants are currently under a microscope. When testifying to Congress last year, Mark Zuckerberg answered a wide range of questions about how Facebook handles its users' data. He also came under fire for Facebook's repeated privacy blunders and what many have viewed as empty apologies over the years.