THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has set aside $3bn of its profits to foot an expected mega-fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In its first quarter financial reports, published on Wednesday, Facebook admitted that the FTC could demand as much as $5bn - a record-high penalty for a tech company in the US - once it concludes its long-running probe into the company's shonky data privacy practices.
"We estimate that the range of loss in this matter is $3bn to $5bn," the company said. "The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome."
The FTC started casting its eye over Facebook last March, shortly after reports revealed that the firm allowed Cambridge Analytica to collect data from millions of users without their knowledge.
Specifically, the watchdog is looking at whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent order it reached with the FTC over its privacy practices; as part of that settlement, Facebook agreed to ask for users' permission before sharing their data more broadly than their privacy settings specified.
While this expected legal expense resulted in a 51 per cent year-on-year decline in net income for Facebook, the company noted that, without it, its earnings per share would have beaten analyst expectations.
What's more, despite reports that users were abandoning the social network following the high-profile privacy scandal, Facebook's monthly user base grew 8 per cent, to 2.3 billion.
"We had a good quarter and our business and community continue to grow," Zuckerberg quipped on the firm's earnings call. "We are focused on building out our privacy-focused vision for the future of social networking, and working collaboratively to address important issues around the internet."
Zuck also remarked on the company's plans to combine Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp into a single "privacy-focused communications platform", noting that he expects the process to take "five years or longer".
"We're going to intentionally take a longer period of time than we might have in order to get safety right," he said. "A few years ago we probably would have rolled this out and then dealt with issues later." µ
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