$5B Facebook Fine: Farce or Forfeiture?

The Federal Trade Commission has handed down a record-breaking fine to the tech titan, but what's $5B when you're worth $585B?
Dana  Miller
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder. FLDphotos/iStock

In a 3-2 vote, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has levied a $5B fine against Facebook in the wake of an ongoing investigation concerning the tech giant's alleged mishandling of user data in collaboration with the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica.

After many grueling months staring down accusations of compromised data for an estimated 87 million users, vociferous public backlash, and mountains of bad press, Facebook has now become the recipient of the largest fine ever lobbed against any tech company in FTC history.


Ironically, and perhaps tellingly, the social media monolith saw a 1.8% jump in share values on the same day this fine was officially imposed.

While $5B would spell near-certain disaster for most companies, Facebook was and remains one of the original Silicon Valley "unicorns" and is reported to be worth $585B in total assets.

This makes the FTC fine appear to many as little more than a stern talking-to, and most critics on both sides of the political aisle conjecture that such a fine does nothing to motivate or regulate Facebook's future management of sensitive user data nor change anything about the day-to-day operations surrounding user security. 

Next steps involve a mandated review by the civil division of the Justice Department, which has no declared time frame.

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In the meantime, whatever vulnerabilities lurked for Facebook users during Cambridge Analytica remain largely unmonitored and unchanged, as does a growing public antitrust sentiment toward the social media giant.

Whether this dispensation will contain further governmental constrictions on the way Facebook must handle user data going forward remains to be seen.

Though Mark Zuckerberg has previously issued a public apology and pledged to play stronger guarantor of user privacy, no official comment has yet been released by Facebook in response to this now-legendary censure from the FTC.

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