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US fines Facebook $5 billion for privacy violations

July 24, 2019

The US Federal Trade Commission has said it would also place new oversight and restrictions on Facebook. It is the largest fine that the FTC has ever imposed on a technology company.

Facebook logo
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Drew

Facebook was fined $5 billion (€4.49 billion) by US federal regulators on Wednesday for privacy violations.

It is the largest ever fine levied by the Federal Trade Commission on a tech company, which recorded nearly $56 billion in revenue last year.

"Despite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how their personal information is shared, Facebook undermined consumers' choices," FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement on the decision.

Read more: ECJ hears landmark case over Facebook data security

As part of the settlement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg will have to personally certify his company's compliance with its privacy programs under threat of future civil or criminal penalties. The FTC said they are only holding Zuckerberg personally responsible in a limited fashion.

The FTC also said it will require Facebook to create an independently appointed privacy committee within its board of directors to end Zuckerberg's "unfettered control" of privacy decisions.

 "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," Simmons said.

Read more: Washington to Big Tech: You're on notice

Two of the five FTC commissioners dissented, saying the fine and settlement was not far-reaching enough.

Facebook's top lawyer, Colin Stretch, said the agreement "will require a fundamental shift in the way we approach our work and it will place additional responsibility on people building our products at every level of the company."

The FTC opened a probe into Facebook after revelations emerged last year that millions of users' data had been misused by Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy firm.

 aw/amp (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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