Facebook To Face Massive $5 Billion Penalty Over Data Privacy Lapses, 'not Sufficient To Change Its Behaviour,' Says Expert 

US News

United States regulators have approved a USD 5 billion penalty to be levied on Facebook to settle a probe into the social network's privacy and data protection lapses.

Written By Press Trust Of India | Mumbai | Updated On:

United States regulators have approved a USD 5 billion penalty to be levied on Facebook to settle a probe into the social network's privacy and data protection lapses, as per a news report on Friday.

The report said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the settlement in a 3-2 vote, with the two Democratic members of the consumer protection agency dissenting. As per a report, the deal which is supposed to be the biggest imposed penalty so far by the FTC for privacy violations still needs approval from the Justice Department before it is finalized.

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Although no details have been given out yet, the deal will likely include restrictions on how Facebook is able to use personal data. Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge and the group's Competition Policy Counsel thinks it is unlikely the restrictions will be overly harsh:

"We don't yet know key aspects of the settlement: whether Facebook must make any changes to its business model or practices as a result," 

"By itself, this fine will not be sufficient to change Facebook's behaviour," she added

The outlook was more optimistic at the Center for Democracy and Technology, whose president Nuala O'Connor said the fine underscored the importance of "data stewardship" in the digital age.

"The FTC has put all companies on notice that they must safeguard personal information," O'Connor said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a press query on the agreement. The FTC announced last year it reopened its investigation into a 2011 privacy settlement with Facebook after revelations that personal data on tens of millions of users was hijacked by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which was working on the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.

Facebook has also faced questions about whether it improperly shared user data with business partners in violation of the earlier settlement. The leading social network with more than two billion users worldwide has also been facing inquiries on privacy from authorities in US states and regulators around the world.

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The settlement would be in line with Facebook's estimate earlier this year when it said it expected to pay USD 3 billion to USD 5 billion for legal settlements on "user data practices." The fine is unlikely to hurt Facebook, which logged a profit of USD 2.4 billion on revenue that climbed 26 per cent to USD 15.1 billion in the first three months of this year. Facebook's stock value increased by 1.8 per cent after the fine was announced, closing at nearly USD 205, the highest it has been all year.

Some Facebook critics have argued the company should face tougher sanctions including monitoring of its data practices, or that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg should be personally liable for penalties. Faced with criticism, Facebook's head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, called on governments to do more to regulate social networks, instead of leaving the work to companies.

"It's not for private companies, however big or small, to come up with those rules. It is for democratic politicians in the democratic world to do so," Clegg said in a June 24 press interview.

But there are increasing calls to dismantle the massive social network. In May, one of Facebook's co-founders called for the social media behemoth to be broken up, warning that Zuckerberg had become far too powerful.

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"It's time to break up Facebook," said Chris Hughes in a newspaper editorial, saying it had become necessary to separate the social network from Facebook's Instagram and WhatsApp services. Zuckerberg's "focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks," said Hughes. 

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