July 13 (UPI) — The Federal Trade Commission’s reported approval of a $5 billion fine to Facebook for failing to protect the privacy of its users has drawn criticism from Democratic lawmakers.
People with knowledge of the decision confirmed to media outlets Friday that the FTC voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the $5 billion fine, which must still be approved in the coming weeks by the Justice Department.
The settlement would mark the largest fine ever levied by the federal government against a tech company, dwarfing the $22 million fine levied against Google in 2012, but the amount drew criticism from Democratic lawmakers who argued the penalty would not be enough to force Facebook to place a larger priority on privacy.
“The FTC just gave Facebook a Christmas present five months early,” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., tweeted Friday evening.
Cicilline, the chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, wrote: “It’s very disappointing that such an enormously powerful company that engaged in such serious misconduct is getting a slap on the wrist.”
“This fine is a fraction of Facebook’s annual revenue. It won’t make them think twice about their responsibility to protect user data. If the FTC won’t protect consumers, Congress surely must,” he wrote.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., issued a statement criticizing the FTC for not issuing a larger fine or requiring the company to make drastic structural changes.
The senator said the amount of the fine is “chump change for a company that makes tens of billions of dollars every year.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the $5 billion fine a “mosquito bite to a corporation the size of Facebook.”
The FTC and Facebook have both declined to comment on the reported settlement.
The federal investigation was launched after reports in The New York Times and The Observer of London detailed how Facebook allowed British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which was working with President Donald Trump’s campaign before the 2016 election, was allowed to harvest personal information from the social network’s users.