Saturday, 21 September, 2019

Facebook Faces $5 Billion Fine Over Privacy Disaster

U.S. regulators approve $5 billion Facebook settlement over privacy issues WSJ Small toy figures are seen in front of Facebook logo in this illustration
Ginger Lawrence | 13 July, 2019, 10:30

The US Federal Trade Commission approved a roughly $5 (roughly Rs. 34,280 crores) billion settlement with Facebook this week over its investigation into the social media company's handling of user data, a source familiar with the situation said on Friday.

The settlement is "expected to include other government restrictions on how Facebook treats user privacy", but the Journal didn't get details on what those restrictions will be.

The FTC opened its investigation in March a year ago, amid concerns that Facebook had allowed British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access the data of 87m users, most of whom had not consented.

While this settlement would mark by far the largest penalty against a tech company, far in excess of the $22.5 million the FTC fined Google in 2012, investors nonetheless appeared to breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn't bigger. Over the course of this year, Facebook has reduced the amount of apps which can access Facebook user data.

The case now moves to the Justice Department's civil division for review.

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"Something clearly has to be done to strengthen the data protection practices of that company", said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed a complaint against Facebook that led to the FTC's 2011 consent decree with the social-media company that addressed a litany of deceptive practices. While the Cambridge Analytica scandal was bad for Facebook, it still largely operates on the same data-hoarding user model that opened the company up to developer exploitation and misuse in the first place.

Facebook declined to comment on the Journal's report of the FTC fine; the FTC did not immediately respond to messages for comment from the Associated Press.

Facebook declined to comment on the status of those probes. Republicans backed the fine, while the agency's Democratic commissioners were looking for tougher oversight of the company.

Even a record $5 billion penalty won't be too damaging a dent for Facebook, which made a profit of $22 billion previous year on $56 billion in total revenue, or a profit margin of 45%. In fact, Facebook's market value has increased by $64 billion since its April earnings report when it announced how much it was expecting to be fined.

Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge said it was not immediately clear if the settlement would require changes to Facebook´s business practices, but suggested that the partisan split on the vote was a bad omen.