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Facebook is facing a fine. What about Zuckerberg?

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jul 15, 2019
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Signs for company Cambridge Analytica in the lobby of the building in which they are based on March 21, 2018 in London, England.
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly ready to hit Facebook with a fine of about $5 billion. It appears Facebook is being fined because it allowed the London-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest data from its users — a violation of a settlement Facebook reached with the FTC over user privacy.

The FTC could go further by holding Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg personally liable for violations of the settlement. Some analysts have suggested that could be more effective than a fine.

“CEOs don’t want to go to prison and they don’t want to lose their fortune,” said Avivah Litan, vice president and analyst at Gartner. “And if you know that your stock is going to get taken away — this is the opposite of a bonus — it’ll really incentivize you to behave in a certain way.”

The fine against Facebook would be a record penalty, much bigger than the $22 million FTC fine against Google in 2012. But Facebook reported around $55 billion in revenue last year; a $5 billion fine is just a fraction of that.

Congress is considering beefing up federal regulation of Facebook and other tech giants. Representatives of Facebook, Amazon and Apple will be in the hot seat this week as Congress holds a series of hearings on antitrust issues and Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency, Libra.

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