Facebook had an incredibly rough 2018. The company was rocked by the Cambridge Analytica scanda lthat it initially tried to suppress, but eventually made its way to the light of day. Cambridge Analytica was able to access personal details on nearly 90 million of Facebook customers without their permission.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg was eventually dragged to Capitol Hill to sit before a congressional firing squad to explain what went wrong, but by all accounts was able to dodge any serious wounds from the well-publicized hearing. Since that time, representatives for Facebook have been meeting with officials from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to agree on a settlement and accompanying fine for the social networking giant’s transgressions. The latest news to leak out of these discussions is that the fine could run into the billions of dollars, which would far outpace the previous record fine levied against Google.
If you recall, Google was hit with a $22.5 million fine back in 2012 for placing tainted “cookies” in Apple’s Safari browser. The currently-being-negotiated Facebook penalty would make Google’s concession look like mere pocket change.
According to The Washington Post, both Facebook and FTC have yet to settle on a final dollar figure or the terms that the company will have to comply with as a result of the settlement. Any settlement would have to be agreed to by both parties, and would need to be approved by a judge.
However, if a settlement cannot be reached, it’s possible that Facebook could choose to argue its case in federal court – but this effort could result in a bitter, protracted fight. It could also mean that Facebook’s name would be plastered all over the news on an ongoing basis for its privacy violations; this is a route that Facebook would probably like to avoid at all costs.
“They’re hemorrhaging users, they’re hemorrhaging trust, and I think this would only exacerbate the problem,” said Justin Bookman, who serves as the Director of Consumer Privacy for Consumer Reports.
Facebook had initially come to an agreement with the FTC back in 2011, after it promised to strengthen its privacy practices and be more transparent with users about sharing their data with third-parties. However, the FTC reportedly has discovered a number of violations of that consent decree.
It is unknown if and when Facebook and FTC will come to an amicable resolution, but lawmakers are urging the regulatory body to speed up its investigation.