Report: Facebook and FTC Are Negotiating a Multi-Billion Dollar Fine over Privacy Breaches

Mark Zuckerberg frowning
Getty/Chip Somodevilla

According to the Washington Post, Facebook is in the process of negotiating with the FTC over a multi-billion dollar fine that would settle the agency’s investigation into Facebook’s privacy breaches.

The Washington Post reports that tech giant Facebook is currently negotiating a deal with the FTC to end the commission’s investigation into their recent privacy breaches. The fine potentially levied against Facebook is set to be the largest that the FTC has ever imposed on a tech company and is reported to be somewhere in the area of over a billion dollars — but a final figure has not yet been decided upon.

Discussions between the FTC and Facebook are currently being held in private but two sources with knowledge of the deal agreed to speak to the Post under the condition of anonymity. The largest fine that the FTC has ever brought against a tech firm was a $22.5 million penalty imposed upon Google in order to settle a probe into the company’s privacy practices in 2012. It now appears that the FTC is about to dwarf that previous record with its fines against Facebook.

The FTC began to probe Facebook in March in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the personal data of 87 million users was allegedly improperly accessed. The agency’s investigation is mainly exploring whether or not Facebook’s series of privacy scandals over the past few years amount to a breach of privacy agreements Facebook reached with the FTC in 2011. Facebook has maintained that they have not breached this agreement.

The 2011 agreement involved Facebook agreeing to be more transparent about their privacy practices and to notify users in a more clear and understandable way when the company would be sharing their personal data with a third party. The agreement also prevented Facebook from deceiving users about the company’s privacy practices and scheduled regular checkups of Facebook’s handling of user data.

If Facebook agrees to pay a steep fine and make some changes to business practices, they could make a deal with the U.S. Government which would have to be approved by a judge. The FTC would then be free to impose a number of stipulations and guidelines on Facebook such as tougher regular checkups of Facebook’s privacy practices. Alternatively, Facebook could fight the FTC in court which could prove a PR nightmare as they would be forced to put their top executives on a witness stand.

Consumer advocates have also begun to pressure the FTC to hit Facebook with “substantial fines” in order to ensure that they take the matter of user privacy seriously. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) wrote in a statement: “The company’s business practices have imposed enormous costs on the privacy and security of Americans, children and communities of color, and the health of democratic institutions in the United States and around the world.”

Breitbart News will be keeping a close eye on dealing between the FTC and Facebook.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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