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Facebook Hit With Biggest FTC Fine Ever for Tech Firm

Company slammed with $5B penalty over privacy; Zuckerberg escapes serious personal liability
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2019 9:17 AM CDT
In this May 1, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook's developer conference, in San Jose, Calif.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(Newser) – Federal regulators have fined Facebook $5 billion for privacy violations and are instituting new oversight and restrictions on its business—but they're only holding CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible in a limited fashion. The fine is the largest the Federal Trade Commission has levied on a tech company, though it won't make much of a dent for a company that had nearly $56 billion in revenue last year, per the AP. As part of the agency's settlement with Facebook, Zuckerberg will have to personally certify his company's compliance with its privacy programs. The FTC said that false certifications could expose him to civil or criminal penalties. Some experts had thought the FTC might fine Zuckerberg directly or seriously limit his authority over the company.

The commission opened an investigation into Facebook last year after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica had gathered details on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission. The fine is well above the agency's previous record for privacy violations—$22.5 million—which it dealt to Google in 2012 for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple's Safari browser. There've been even larger fines against non-tech companies, including a $14.7 billion penalty against Volkswagen to settle allegations of cheating on emissions tests and deceiving customers. "The magnitude of the $5 billion penalty and sweeping conduct relief are unprecedented in the history of the FTC," Joe Simons, the chairman of the FTC, said in a statement. He added that the new restrictions are designed "to change Facebook's entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations." Facebook doesn't admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. (Read more Facebook stories.)

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