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FTC Votes 3-2 to Hit Facebook With $5B Penalty

Newser — Bob Cronin

The Federal Trade Commission has voted to approve a roughly $5 billion settlement with Facebook over its handling of user privacy. The agreement, which probably would include restrictions on Facebook, caps a lengthy investigation, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The commissioners voted 3-2 along party lines, with the majority Republicans voting to approve; Democratic members had sought tougher oversight. The investigation began after reports that a political consulting firm that worked with President Trump's campaign in 2016, Cambridge Analytica, had improperly obtained information on millions of Facebook users.

At the moment, the $22.5 million fine against Google in 2012 is the largest penalty imposed by the FTC. Facebook shares climbed 1%, though the amount is more than the company expected.

This would be the first substantive US penalty for Facebook, per Wired. Among the questions left unanswered after the yearlong investigation include whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be held personally responsible for the privacy violations, and what sort of external oversight might be imposed on the company.

Some analysts say it's hard to imagine a fine that would dent Facebook. Even a large fine "is just a parking ticket," Matt Stoller, of the anti-monopoly think tank Open Markets Institute, told Wired.

"We don’t think a fine matters. We need a structural solution here." The deal now goes to the Justice Department’s civil division for review.

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