In Brief

Facebook faces US privacy probe

FTC could impose ‘massive fines’ on social media company after Cambridge Analytica claims

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun an investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices, following the disclosure that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had access to data from more than 50 million users.

“The FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook,” the agency said in a statement. “Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”

According to the BBC, the FTC will examine whether Facebook has breached the “consent decree” it signed with the agency in 2011, which requires the platform to “notify users and get their permission before data is shared beyond their preferred privacy settings”.

Violations of the decree could carry a penalty of $40,000 per violation, leaving Facebook facing the prospect of fines worth “trillions of dollars”, David Vladeck, a former director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, told the Washington Post.

Even if the fine was unlikely to reach such astronomical proportions, he suggested, the penalty “still could be very large”.

Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer for Facebook, said: “We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have.”

News of the FTC investigation further dented Facebook’s share price, which has dropped by more than 13%, wiping billions of dollars off the value of the company, since the Cambridge Analytica story was first reported.

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