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The FTC is reportedly divided about how to hold Facebook accountable for privacy lapses

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The Commission can’t decide on the size of the fine, or whether Mark Zuckerberg should be held personally responsible

Illustration by James Bareham / The Verge

A new report from The New York Times says that the Federal Trade Commission is having trouble agreeing on a suitable punishment for Facebook’s privacy lapses, and that its members are specifically trying to determine whether or not CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be held personally responsible.

Facebook is reportedly facing a huge fine from the FTC over its highly-public privacy lapses, and has said that it’s setting aside $3 billion to cover that fine, and could be required to create new, privacy-focused positions within the company. $3 billion would be a slap on the wrist for the company, given that it pulled in $15.1 billion in revenue last quarter.

The Times’ report says that the FTC wants to make a statement with a massive penalty against the company (the largest thus far was handed down in 2012, $22.5 million, against Google), but its members haven’t been able to decide just how far they want to go to make such a statement. The report cites people familiar with the talks who say that not only are they unable to come to an agreement on the size of the fine, but “one of the most contentious undercurrents throughout the negotiations has been the degree to which Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, should be held personally liable for any violation of the agreement.”

FTC chairman Joseph Simons reportedly has the three Republican members of the commission ready to approve a deal, with the remaining two Democratic members holding out for a stiffer punishment. But Simons is reportedly trying to avoid a party-line decision, which could lead to political fallout or potential litigation. Moreover, a response perceived as soft could undermine the public’s faith in the FTC’s ability to adequately oversee tech companies, especially as Europe has implemented its own, stronger regulations. The Commission is expected to vote on the matter soon.