THE US FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (FTC) is said to have agreed to a $5bn (£3.9bn) settlement with Facebook over the social network's shonky handling of user data.
The FTC has been probing Facebook since last March, following allegations that the firm inappropriately shared the data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica.
The watchdog's probe has largely focused on whether the sharing of users' data violated a 2011 agreement between the regulator and the company, in which Facebook had promised not to share users' data with third parties without their knowledge and consent.
The $5bn mega-penalty, reported by the New York Times, is the second-largest handed down by the FTC to date; the largest was the $22.5bn fine slapped on Google back in 2012 after it was found to have bypassed users' privacy settings in Apple's Safari web browser.
The settlement was approved by a 3-2 vote that broke along party lines, with Republicans in favour and Democrats opposed.
If agreed by the civil division of the US Justice Department, the fine would be the first substantive penalty for Facebook in the US. It would also set a new bar for privacy enforcement by the US regulators and officials, who have brought only a few cases against big tech firms in the past.
In addition to the fine, Facebook has reportedly agreed to "more comprehensive oversight of how it handles user data... but none of the conditions in the settlement will restrict Facebook's ability to collect and share data with third parties," the NYT reports says.
While the $5bn fine is at the upper limit of what Facebook said that it was expecting in April, it's little more than pocket change for the company which reported more than $15bn in revenue in the first three months of 2019.
"This reported $5bn penalty is barely a tap on the wrist, not even a slap," said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, who called for a hearing on the agreement. "Such a financial punishment for purposeful, blatant illegality is chump change for a company that makes tens of billions of dollars every year."
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, added: "Something clearly has to be done to strengthen the data protection practices of that company."
Rotenberg's complaint against Facebook had led to FTC's 2011 deal with Facebook, addressing several deceiving practices of the social media company. µ
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