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Facebook is set to pay a multibillion-dollar fine to settle a US privacy probe

February 15, 2019

The fine is likely to be the largest the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  has ever imposed on a technology company.

The fine: Facebook will pay the multibillion-dollar fine to settle an FTC investigation into its privacy practices, according to the Washington Post. The final sum is yet to be negotiated, but it will certainly dwarf a $22.5 million settlement with Google in 2012.

If talks break down, it could end in a bruising legal battle in court—and more negative headlines for Facebook. The FTC could also force Facebook to change its business practices as part of the settlement.

The probe: It began in March 2018 in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the company improperly accessed data on 87 million Facebook users. The FTC is investigating whether Facebook’s behavior, plus various damaging revelations since, amounts to a violation of an agreement it reached with the agency in 2011 to improve its privacy practices.

Battles on many fronts: Facebook is currently contesting a fine of £500,000 ($641,000) imposed by the UK’s data protection watchdog in October 2018, insisting that no UK data was involved. It’s also fighting a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of the District of Columbia, which claims it misled users over data collection. Other investigations are under way in various US states.

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