Facebook hit with $5bn fine over user privacy fears

facebook fine
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Facebook has been hit with a record $5bn fine by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle privacy concerns over the Cambridge Analytica data-stealing scandal.

The social network will also be required to establish an independent privacy committee that CEO Mark Zuckerberg will have no control over.

The FTC began its probe into Facebook in regard to how the political consultancy Cambridge Analtyica improperly obtained the data of up to 87m of the site's users but the probe was later widened to include other issues such as facial recognition.

FTC chairman Joe Simons explained why the agency levied the largest fine ever imposed on any company for violating consumer privacy in a statement, saying: 

"Despite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how their personal information is shared, Facebook undermined consumers' choices.” 

Simons also explained that the record fine was designed “to change Facebook's entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations.”

FTC probe

The FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection first began investigating Facebook back in March 2018 when the news broke that an online personality quiz was used to illegally harvest user data and sold to Cambridge Analytica. There were also claims that this data may have been used to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.

Despite the fact that only 270,000 users took the quiz, whistleblower Christoper Wylie claims that the data of around 50m users was harvested through the friend networks of those who took it.

Back in October of last year, the UK's data protection watchdog fined Facebook £500,000 for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

The FTC's investigation found that some of the social network's policies violated rules against deceptive practices such as how its data policy was deceptive to those who used its facial recognition tool or how it did not reveal that phone numbers used for two-factor authentication would be used for advertising.

FTC representatives from both the Democrat and Republican parties voted the settlement deal through, though some believed the penalty against Facebook was too lenient.

Via The BBC

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.