The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has decided to fine Facebook a massive $5 billion (£3.98 billion) for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that compromised personal details of up to 87 million people, 70 million of whom were from the United States.
In March last year, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has initiated an investigation against Facebook after news reports alleged that Facebook allowed third-party apps to harvest profile information of millions of users without obtaining prior consent.
“The FTC takes the allegations that the data of millions of people were used without proper authorization very seriously. The allegations also highlight the limited rights Americans have to their data,” said FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny.
“Consumers need stronger protections for the digital age such as comprehensive data security and privacy laws, transparency and accountability for data brokers, and rights to and control over their data.”
In December, the attorney general of the District of Columbia also filed a lawsuit against Facebook, making it the first official regulatory action in the U.S. against Facebook after the company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica fiasco was revealed to the public.
Facebook never really contested the allegations and apologised to the public on various occasions for allowing third-party companies such as Cambridge Analytica to harvest personal data of millions of users without obtaining prior authorisation.
In a blog post he personally wrote, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that not only did Facebook ban both Kogan and Cambridge Analytica from using its services, it also took steps in 2014 to dramatically limit the data apps could access, and this move stopped apps from collecting data belonging to a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app.
He added that Facebook will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. These steps will include removing developers’ access to a user’s data if the user hasn’t used an app in three months, restricting the data that a user has to provide to an app during the sign-up process to only name, email address, and a profile photo, and requiring developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data.
Even though the FTC is yet to announce it, various news reports from the United States have revealed that the FTC recently voted to approve a fine of $5 billion (£3.98 billion) against Facebook for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that compromised personal details of up to 87 million people, 70 million of whom were from the United States.
The fine against Facebook was approved through three votes in favour and two against, with Republicans voting in favour of the monetary penalty. According to Sky News, the monetary fine will be reviewed by the Justice Department and the review could take place as early as next week.
However, many experts believe that the $5 billion fine issued to Facebook is not enough to force the social media giant from getting its act together and doing more to respect users’ privacy rights.
“The FTC just gave Facebook a Christmas present five months early. It’s very disappointing that such an enormously powerful company that engaged in such serious misconduct is getting a slap on the wrist,” said Representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.
“It’s very disappointing that such an enormously powerful company that engaged in such serious misconduct is getting a slap on the wrist. This fine is a fraction of Facebook’s annual revenue. It won’t make them think twice about their responsibility to protect user data. If the FTC won’t protect consumers, Congress surely must,” he added.
In the UK, Facebook has already been fined £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office who observed that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information and that the company failed to be transparent about how people’s data was harvested by others.