Facebook To Pay A Historic $5 Billion Penalty In Final Settlement With FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has officially penalized Facebook a groundbreaking $5 billion, the largest in FTC history. 

According to a Wednesday press release from the FTC, the social network giant will also have to submit to new restrictions, as well as a modified corporate structure that will hold the company accountable for decisions made about users’ privacy. 

“Despite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how their personal information is shared, Facebook undermined consumers’ choices,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in the press release. “The magnitude of the $5 billion penalty and sweeping conduct relief are unprecedented in the history of the FTC. The relief is designed not only to punish future violations but, more importantly, to change Facebook’s entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations. The Commission takes consumer privacy seriously, and will enforce FTC orders to the fullest extent of the law.”

Additionally, the order imposes further privacy requirements. These include greater oversight over third-party apps, prohibiting the use of telephone numbers to enable a security feature,  providing clear and conspicuous notice of the use of facial recognition and user consent for this feature, the establishment of a data security program, prohibiting the company from asking for email passwords from new users to other services, and encryption of passwords. 

This settlement is a result of violations Facebook made from a previous settlement with the FTC in 2012. Among these violations, the FTC alleges that Facebook shared user data with third-party app developers, misrepresented users’ ability to control the use of facial recognition and used deceptive practices when collecting users phone numbers for a security feature, which includes advertising purposes. 

Facebook will be required to designate compliance officers who will be responsible for the new privacy program. The social network will also have to implement an independent privacy committee of Facebook’s board of directors, which will be charged with creating greater accountability. These new compliance officers will create quarterly reports which will be shared with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the FTC. 

What’s groundbreaking about this settlement is that it is almost 20 times greater than the world’s largest privacy/data security penalty to date. According to the press release, the second-highest penalty in privacy enforcement actions was issued in the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and States v. Equifax, which was $275 million. 

“This settlement’s historic penalty and compliance terms will benefit American consumers, and the Department expects Facebook to treat its privacy obligations with the utmost seriousness,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division in the FTC’s press release. 

Digital Trends reached out to Facebook for comment, but has yet to receive a response. 




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