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Facebook fined over privacy violations

The 5 billion dollar fine would be the largest the US Federal Trade Commission has levied on a technology company.

Facebook had nearly 56 billion US dollars in revenue last year (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Facebook had nearly 56 billion US dollars in revenue last year (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The US Federal Trade Commission has voted to approve a fine of about 5 billion dollars for Facebook over privacy violations, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Facebook declined to comment on the story which said the 3-2 vote broke along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition to the fine.

In most cases the Justice Department’s civil division will review settlements by the FTC, and it is unclear how long the process would take.

The fine would be the largest the FTC has levied on a technology company.

But it will not make much of a dent for Facebook, which had nearly 56 billion dollars in revenue last year.

Facebook has earmarked 3 billion dollars for a potential fine and said in April it was anticipating having to pay up to 5 billion dollars.

The report did not say what else the settlement includes beyond the fine, though it is expected to include limits on how Facebook treats user privacy.

Some have called on the FTC to hold Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally liable for the privacy violations in some way, but based on the party line vote breakdown experts said this is not likely.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the non-profit online privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Centre, said he was “confused” as to why the Democrat commissioners did not support the settlement and said he suspects, without having seen the actual settlement, that this was due to the Zuckerberg liability question.

Since the Cambridge Analytica debacle erupted more than a year ago and prompted the FTC investigation, Facebook has vowed to do a better job corralling its users’ data.

That scandal revealed that a data mining firm affiliated with US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign may have improperly accessed private information from as many as 87 million Facebook users through a quiz app.

Other leaky controls have also since come to light. Facebook acknowledged giving big tech companies like Amazon and Yahoo extensive access to users’ personal data, in effect exempting them from its usual privacy rules. And it collected call and text logs from phones running Google’s Android system in 2015.

Wall Street appeared unfazed at the prospect of the fine. Facebook’s shares closed at 204.87 dollars on Friday and added 24 cents after hours. The stock is up more than 50% since the beginning of the year.

PA

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