Federal Trade Commission officials have discussed imposing a record-setting fine on Facebook after a year of major data breaches and revelations of improper data sharing, according to the Washington Post. Facebook may have violated a 2012 agreement with the government to protect users’ data and make clear statements about their privacy.
If imposed, this would be the first major fine Facebook has faced in the US after it was revealed last spring that the personal data of over 87 million users had been given to Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, without their explicit permission. Last October, United Kingdom officials fined Facebook £500,000 as a result of Cambridge Analytica, but that amount pales in comparison to what US regulators are reportedly debating now.
According to the Post, the fine could be larger than the $22.5 million one the FTC imposed on Google in 2012 after regulators found that the company had tracked users of Apple’s Safari web browser, despite saying it wouldn’t.
In 2012, Facebook entered a consent decree with the FTC agreeing that it deceived its users by telling them that certain information would be kept private, when it was not. The company had made information, like lists of friends and published posts, available to the public and capable of being shared without the consent of its users. This is likely the agreement the FTC regulators now believe Facebook has violated.
Following Cambridge Analytica and similar incidents, like a hacker accessing personal information on 29 million accounts, members of Congress and advocacy groups have called on the FTC to take action.
“Serious consequences are the only way to curb Facebook’s predatory behavior and change the industry’s amoral pursuit of growth at the public’s expense,” Free Press, a media and technology advocacy group, said in a statement today. “This action should be the first of many taken by regulators and Congress in response to online platforms’ systemic abuse of their users.”
According to the Post, the findings of the Facebook investigation and the total amount of the fine have not been finalized. Facebook has met with FTC investigators throughout the past year, but it isn’t clear whether the company would accept the fine that the agency is anticipated to impose.
The FTC has been shut down since last month and nonessential employees have been furloughed. The agency did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Facebook declined to comment to The Verge.