U.S. regulators have met to discuss imposing a record-setting fine against Facebook for violating a legally binding agreement with the government to protect the privacy of its users’ personal data, according to three people familiar with the deliberations but not authorized to speak on the record.
The fine under consideration at the Federal Trade Commission, a privacy and security watchdog that began probing Facebook last year, would mark the first major punishment levied against Facebook in the United States since reports emerged in March that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, accessed personal information on about 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.
The penalty is expected to be much larger than the $22.5 million fine the agency imposed on Google in 2012. That fine set a record for the greatest penalty for violating an agreement with the FTC to improve its privacy practices.
The FTC’s exact findings in its Facebook investigation and the total amount of the fine, which the agency’s five commissioners have discussed at a private meeting in recent weeks, have not been finalized, two of the people said. Staff has briefed the commissioners about their probe, the third person said, and plan to issue a formal recommendation for a fine soon — a move that would then trigger a vote by the commissioners.
Facebook also has talked with FTC staffers about the investigation, one of the people familiar with the probe said, but it is unclear whether the company would settle with the FTC by accepting a significant financial penalty.