Facebook Could Face Billions Of Dollars In Fines For Failing To Protect User Privacy

The Irish Data Protection Commission is investigating a data breach that left millions of users exposed.

A person logs onto Facebook on a mobile phone
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The Irish Data Protection Commission is investigating a data breach that left millions of users exposed.

Facebook could face a fine of up to $1 billion or more for data breaches that exposed personal information of millions of people.

As CNN reported, the social media giant could face the massive fine after a European regulator said it is investigating the company’s failure to protect user privacy. The investigation comes from the Irish Data Protection Commission, which is looking into how hackers were able to access personal information for millions of users. In September, a bug was discovered that exposed user photos over a 12-day period, the report noted.

The report added that Facebook could face steep fines if found liable for the data breach.

“Companies found to have run afoul of GDPR could face a maximum fine of $23 million or 4% of their annual worldwide revenue, whichever is higher,” the report noted.

“In Facebook’s case, the company had revenue of almost $40 billion in 2017, which means the company could face a fine of up to $1.6 billion if its revenue for 2018 remains roughly the same.”

The company has been faced with a number of controversies related to data security. In September, a Wired report noted that another data breach allowed hackers to see everything in a user’s profile and automatically logged 90 million users out of their accounts.

The report noted that the breach actually extended beyond Facebook, allowing hackers to access any other accounts that users log into through Facebook. The breach was especially frustrating given that many technology experts had been warning that single-spot logins were especially vulnerable. Wired published a story in April warning of the dangers of this type of login.

Friday’s announcement of the new investigation led to some pushback as well. Senator Richard Blumenthal wrote on Twitter that he is “fed up with Facebook’s repeated failures & inability to get its act together.”

Blumenthal had previously grilled Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a Senate hearing earlier this year, blasting the company for failing to hold to an agreement with the Fair Trade Commission to protect users from a researcher who used a survey to gain personal information of Facebook users.

“It was heedless and reckless,” Blumenthal said, “and in fact amounted to a violation of the FTC consent decree.”

The company was already reeling from attacks based on its actions in the 2016 presidential election, allowing Russian groups to use the platform to spread propaganda in a bid to influence the election. Zuckerberg said the company instituted a number of changes after the election to guard against it happening again.