The US Federal Trade Commission has voted to approve a fine of about $ 5bn for Facebook over privacy violations, according to a report.
It comes after an FTC investigation into allegations that the social media platform inappropriately shared the information of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, is now closed.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the vote was 3-2 along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition to the fine.
In most cases the Justice Department’s civil division will review settlements by the FTC but it is not clear how long this will take but it could be as early as next week.
As well as the fine, the settlement could include rules on how Facebook treats the privacy of its users.
Despite being the largest fine the FTC has approved on a tech company, it is unlikely to trouble Facebook’s coffers.
The social media giant had revenue of nearly $ 56bn last year.
Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat and chair of a congressional antitrust panel, said: “This fine is a fraction of Facebook’s annual revenue. It won’t make them think twice about their responsibility to protect user data.”
It is also unlikely that Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg will be held personally liable, despite calls from both sides of the political spectrum.
Facebook has not commented on the fine but it did not dent investor optimism, with shares in the tech firm up 1.8%.
Last year the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK fined Facebook £500,000 for the “serious breach of data protection law”.
About one million of those affected are believed to have been in the UK.
Responding to that fine, Facebook had said: “While we respectfully disagree with some of [the ICO’s] findings, we have said before that we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and taken action in 2015.”
The information was used to help Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.
Facebook broke the law by failing to safeguard people’s data and not being transparent about how that data could be gathered, the investigation found.
The FTC started its investigation in March 2018, focusing on whether Facebook had violated a 2011 agreement under which it was required to clearly notify users and gain “express consent” to share their data.