Facebook’s long string of privacy scandals may (finally) have some meaningful repercussions by way of a multi-billion dollar fine from the Federal Trade Commission.
The social media giant has been under investigation by the FTC since March 2018 in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which affected 87 million users and may have been a pivotal influence in the 2016 election campaign. The inquiry is primarily focused on whether or not this (along with several other breaches of customer privacy) violated a 2011 settlement with the Commission to uphold and enhance user privacy.
As it stands, Facebook can either fight the FTC, or pay what could amount to billions of dollars in fines for violating the terms of its settlement. The Commission has the authority to fine Facebook at least $70 billion, although the figure would likely be closer to $2 billion, according to an estimate from the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
While billions of dollars in fines may seem like a danger to Facebook’s bottom line, a long legal battle could prove more costly in the long run, since it could drive users away from the site.
“They’re hemorrhaging users, they’re hemorrhaging trust, and I think this would only exacerbate the problem,” said the director of consumer privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports to the Washington Post.