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Facebook to Face Record-Setting Fine Concerning Data Privacy

Facebook's woes concerning the privacy of consumer data isn't over yet. Officials with the United States' Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, are already discussing a potential fine against the popular social media giant. While an exact amount hasn't been declared, and the decision hasn't been finalized at the time of this writing, it could turn out to be a record-setting figure.

Breaking all the wrong records

Unfortunately, this isn't the type of record that Facebook – or anyone – wants to break. It was previously held by Google, who was fined $22.5 million in 2012 following charges of misrepresentation regarding Apple's Safari browser.

In their original press release following Google's fine in 2012, Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, spoke very candidly when he said: "The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order. No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place."

This spells bad news for Facebook. Although it's several years later, the FTC is prepared to stand by these previous statements. In fact, recent statements by David Vladeck, former director with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, suggest that the social media giant might be in serious trouble.

A recent blog post by Vladeck states, in part: ''"It doesn't appear that Facebook had even the most basic compliance framework to safeguard access to user data. It is entirely predictable that if app developers are not held to their promises about data collection and sharing, they might not be candid with Facebook about their intentions. Yet it seems that Facebook made no effort to establish the bona fides of developers, much less verify or audit what user data app developers actually harvested and shared."''

The other side of the coin

The primary point of the FTC's latest investigation revolves around Facebook's data protection policies and whether or not they violate an earlier decree – which was also issued by the FTC. In that case, Facebook was found guilty of deceiving their users after a lengthy investigation.

It's important to note that the recent investigation by the FTC is still ongoing. However, Facebook is no stranger to large fines regarding their misuse of consumer data. Most recently, officials with Italy's Competition Authority levied two fines totaling 10 million euros, or $11.4 million USD, for failing to inform users of the site's data collection policies.

A representative with Facebook responded in this specific incident by stating: ''"This year we made our terms and policies clearer to help people understand how we use data and how our business works. We also made our privacy settings easier to find and use, and we're continuing to improve them. You own and control your personal information on Facebook."''

Facebook has yet to address the recent issue with the FTC. Additionally, the recent shutdown of the U.S. government has delayed the investigation by the FTC – a government-sponsored organization – by an unknown amount of time.


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