Facebook faces ‘record-setting’ fine over privacy violations

U.S. regulators consider slapping Facebook with a record-setting fine sources say

The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating Facebook since past year.

The commission is considering hitting Facebook with a penalty that would top its previous record fine of US$22.5 million, which it dealt to Google in 2012 for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple Inc's Safari browser, according to the Washington Post.

The FTC's 2011 consent decree with Facebook settled claims that the company deceived consumers by telling them they could keep data private, but allowed it to be shared and made public. Consumer-protection and enforcement staff members have reportedly provided the commissioners with updates on alleged privacy violations but the final report is still to come.

It also required Facebook to inform the FTC if someone was misusing the information. In addition, the company can't be misleading about its privacy practices.

Privacy advocates have charged that Facebook violated the terms of that agreement repeatedly, as evidenced by its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica.

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Data stolen from internet and social media companies has prompted the US Congress to explore a number of initiatives to regulate access to personal information posted online. The revelation placed Facebook under unprecedented congressional and regulatory scrutiny.

According to US-based media reports, for years Facebook provided users' personal data to more than 150 companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and Netflix, effectively exempting its business partners from Facebook's own privacy rules.

Since the Cambridge Analytica erupted 10 months ago, Facebook has vowed to do a better job corralling its users' data. The probe may be months from completion, the person said. The fine is equivalent to about $600,000 U.S. and is being appealed by Facebook. The attorney general for the District of Columbia sued the company in December while other states have opened investigations.

The watchdog's finding and the amount of the fine have not been finalized, two sources told the Post, and a formal recommendation is expected to be issued soon. Facebook had revenue of $13.7 billion in its latest reported quarter, and net income of over $5 billion. Facebook also admitted that the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are also investigating the company.

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