In a landmark settlement, the Federal Trade Commission of the United States on 25 July ordered Facebook to pay a $5 billion fine to the FTC, in addition to a further $100 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission for “making misleading disclosures regarding the risk of misuse of Facebook user data”.

This follows accusations that the social media giant violated a previous FTC order over privacy practices, and perhaps more acutely refers to the privacy violations during the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016, as well as other instances in which the company put the privacy of its users in peril.

Aside from the unprecedented fine – the largest ever imposed on a company in any industry, and one that is 20 times greater than the largest data security or privacy penalty imposed anywhere in the world – Facebook will now also have to adopt stringent and fundamental changes to its privacy policy, requiring the company to exercise greater thoroughness in its privacy reviews of apps, among many other additional security requirements.

While Facebook users – estimates are that more than half of the online population use the social network – might not notice any immediate changes to their timelines, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company is committed to putting stricter security measures in place in a Facebook post following the announcement of the settlement.

Despite the record-breaking fine, Facebook’s quarterly earnings showed growth, as the company’s stock popped upon the announcement of the FTC settlement.

Exactly how users will see the world’s biggest social network change is still unclear, but the investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices and the subsequent fine promises tougher oversight for big tech and greater liabilities in cases where the privacy of users is violated – which is good news for everyone using the internet today.

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