The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a fine of around $5bn against Facebook for misuse of user data in relation to the Cambridge Analytica scandal – a punishment which would be the largest ever levied by the federal government on a tech company.
The FTC has been investigating Facebook over its relationship with Cambridge Analytica since March last year. The investigation particularly looked at if the social network had violated the terms of a 2011 consent it signed requiring it to be clear with users about how their data is being shared by third parties.
The $5bn fine was approved by the FTC in a 3-2 vote, with the three Republican commissioners in favour of and the two Democrat commissioners against the fine. It’s reported that the Democrats wanted to see Facebook face a harsher penalty.
“The FTC just gave Facebook a Christmas present five months early,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat from Rhode Island. “It’s very disappointing that such an enormously powerful company that engaged in such serious misconduct is getting a slap on the wrist.”
The fine would still need to be approved by the Justice Department’s civil division, but this can be expected in the coming weeks, as it doesn’t usually reject the FTC’s settlements.
Facebook is unlikely to be fazed by the decision, as it already accounted for the fine in its earnings report for the first quarter of 2019. Nonetheless, it’s still a sign of the US moving the size of its punishments more inline with the several large fines we’ve seen the European Union hand out over the last few years.