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Facebook may face 20 years of privacy oversight by FTC

Two decades of oversight being discussed in settlement talks, Reuters reports.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook may soon agree to 20 years of oversight of its privacy policies and practices by the US government, Reuters reported Monday.

An investigation by the Federal Trade Commission is trying to determine whether Facebook's actions violated a 2011 agreement with the government in which it pledged to keep user data private. Facebook has said it didn't violate the consent decree.

Under the agreement, Facebook agreed to get permission from users before sharing their data with third parties. In addition, the tech giant is required to have a third party conduct audits every two years for 20 years to ensure the program is effective.

The consumer watchdog began investigating Facebook after revelations surfaced last year that UK consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of as many as 87 million users without their permission.

The social media giant and the consumer protection agency have reportedly been in discussions for months to settle the investigation. Facebook said last month that it had set aside $3 billion to cover possible expenses for a possible fine related to the ongoing investigation.

The as-yet-unannounced FTC fine, which Facebook said could be as high as $5 billion, would be the largest ever against a US tech company. The FTC's previous record-setting fine against a tech company for breaking a privacy agreement was against Google in 2012 for $22.5 million.

A settlement announcement could be a month away, a source told Reuters.

Facebook and the FTC declined to comment.