FTC Considers Record Fine for Facebook Over Violation of User Privacy Agreement It Made in 2012, Report Says

January 19, 2019, 12:06 AM UTC

The Federal Trade Commission may impose a record fine on Facebook (FB) for its alleged violation of an agreement in place covering the protection and privacy of user data, the Washington Post reports. The partial government shutdown has left discussions suspended, however, the report said.

The FTC agreement, a settlement that the FTC and Facebook finalized in 2012, addressed a complaint by the FTC that the company had “deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”

The Post didn’t state the size of the fine under consideration, but said that its sources indicated it would be “much larger” than the $22.5 million penalty Google paid in 2012 over its privacy practices. The FTC has restrictive statutory limits on the scale of fines it can impose, which can be vastly out of proportion to modern consumer and Internet firms’ profits. Facebook had revenue of $13.7 billion in its latest reported quarter, and net income of over $5 billion.

A Facebook spokesperson told Fortune the company had no comment. The FTC remains largely shutdown during the gap in government funding for some agencies.

Facebook’s 2012 agreement with the FTC lasts 20 years, and required the social network to take affirmative steps to obtain consent from users for a variety of data sharing with third parties. In addition, the company can’t be misleading about its privacy practices. It should also have been arranging for outside, independent audits of its practices every two years to make sure they meet the FTC terms.

Facebook has disclosed and been accused of a series of privacy-violating incidents, some dating back several years, in which the company revealed user information to third parties both intentionally and by accident. The company also had security and software failings that allowed unknown parties to retrieve potential private information. This includes a series of revelations about the access that political-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had to the profiles and connected friends of users who had completed a questionnaire unrelated to the company.