WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Facebook will have to pay $5 billion for deceiving users about what the company was doing with their private information. The fine is the largest penalty the Federal Trade Commission has ever issued.
The FTC says Facebook misled its nearly two billion users, misusing their personal information for years even after making assurances that would not happen.
“Facebook betrayed the trust of its users and deceived them about their ability to control their personal information,” FTC Chairman Joseph Simmons said.
Investigators say Facebook violated a 2012 settlement with the FTC by continuing to share user information to third-party app developers without consent. The FTC also says Facebook collected users’ phone numbers – telling them it was for security reasons – then used that information for advertising.
As part of its punishment, Facebook will now be forced to limit the influence of founder Mark Zuckerburg.
“We do not have the legal authority to remove Mr. Zuckerburg from the driver’s seat but we have imposed a robust system of checks and balances that extinguishes his ability unilaterally to chart the path for consumer privacy,” FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson said.
Zuckerburg released a statement that, in part, reads:
“These changes go beyond anything required under U.S. law today. The reason I support them is that I believe they will reduce the number of mistakes we make and help us deliver stronger privacy protections.”
Some lawmakers still say the $5 billion fine doesn’t go far enough for a company that makes that much money in about one month.
“I think Facebook owes us an obligation to tell us what kind of data they’re collecting about us, how much data that is worth,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said.
The $5 billion will go straight to the U.S. Treasury, not to the consumers. But FTC investigators say new protections are worth more than money.
“This enforcement action provides immediate protection for Facebook users,” Commissioner Wilson said.