Facebook has found itself on the receiving end of the largest ever fine to be imposed by the US Federal Trade Commission against a technology company after being hit by a $5bn punishment for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The sum reflects the severity with which the government agency treats the privacy violations arising from that case, in which the personal information of up to 50m users was shared illegally.
The penalty marks the culmination of an investigatory process which began back in March 2018 when news of the scandal first broke in the Observer newspaper, since when the FTC has been deliberating over whether this violated a 2012 decree to better protect user privacy.
Despite the record-breaking nature of the fine Facebook is expected to absorb the hit on its balance sheet without so much as flinching having generated over $15bn of revenue in the first three months of 2019 alone.
This has angered opponents who believe the sanctions do not go far enough in financial terms, nor do they mandate any meaningful change in the manner in which Facebook conducts itself. The social giant has been ordered to reappraise the manner in which it handles user data but will remain free to share data with third parties.
Among those voicing their concern was senator Ron Wyden of Oregon who said: “This reported fine is a mosquito bite to a corporation the size of Facebook. And I fear it will let Facebook off the hook for more recent abuses of Americans’ data that may not have been factored into this inadequate settlement.
“The only way to assure Americans that our private data will be protected is to pass a strong privacy bill, like the one I plan to introduce in the coming weeks.”
Fallout from the Cambridge Analytica affair continues to reverberate throughout the wider industry with investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr accusing the ad industry of ignoring its implications.