FTC reportedly approves $5B settlement with Facebook

The settlement would easily surpass the FTC's largest financial penalty to date.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a $5 billion settlement with Facebook, according to the Wall Street Journal, over its user privacy violations. The settlement would easily surpass the FTC's largest financial penalty to date, which was a $22.5 million fine against Google in 2012. 

The commission approved the settlement by a vote of three to two, which broke down along party lines, the Journal reports. Republicans backed the fine, while the agency's Democratic commissioners were looking for tougher oversight of the company. The settlement is also expected to include new government restrictions on Facebook's user privacy policies. Before the settlement is finalized, it must be reviewed by the Justice Department's civil division. 

Since last year, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the FTC has been probing whether Facebook violated a 2011 privacy consent decree that obligated the company to take steps to protect its users' privacy. The consent decree followed a prior FTC investigation that found Facebook mishandled user data. 

In April, Facebook disclosed that in Q1, it set aside $3 billion for expenses related to the FTC probe, expecting the investigation to cost it somewhere between $3 billion and $5 billion. Facebook's revenue for the quarter exceeded $15 billion. 

Some top Democratic members of Congress on Friday expressed their dissatisfaction with the reported settlement. For instance, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon called the reported fine " a mosquito bite to a corporation the size of Facebook." 

"No level of corporate fine can replace the necessity to hold Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible for the flagrant, repeated violations of Americans' privacy," he added. 

Wyden has been working on a bill that would bolster US consumer privacy rights, with a provision to jail executives at big companies for lying or not reporting privacy violations.

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