Former Federal Trade Commission officials say that Facebook Inc. appears to have breached a 2011 consent agreement to safeguard users’ personal information and may be facing hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.
The agency could fine Facebook up to $40,000 per violation per day — which could add up quickly with millions of users involved — if it finds the social media giant broke its earlier promises to protect user data, they say.
“If I had to bet, they will find violations,” said Jessica Rich, a former head of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau.
“The penalty could potentially be huge,” because each user adversely affected could be considered a violation, said Rich, now vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports. “The FTC is unlikely to get billions,” Rich said. “It could get hundreds of millions.”
The FTC is probing how data from 50 million Facebook users was obtained by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm that consulted on President Donald Trump’s campaign, and whether the transfer violated pledges the company made to settle an earlier privacy case. Investigators can also consider whether Facebook misled users or violated rules governing data shipments between Europe and the United States.