By Tony Romm

The Washington Post

The Federal Trade Commission and Facebook are negotiating over a multibillion-dollar fine that would settle the agency’s investigation into the social media giant’s privacy practices, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The fine would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a technology company, but the two sides have not yet agreed on an exact amount. Facebook has expressed initial concern with the FTC’s demands, one of the people said. If talks break down, the FTC could take the matter to court in what would likely be a bruising legal fight.

The two people familiar with the probe spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private talks. Facebook confirmed it is in discussions with the agency but declined to comment further. The FTC declined to comment.

Previously, the largest fine the FTC has imposed on a tech company for breaking an agreement with the federal government to safeguard consumers’ data was a $22.5 million penalty that Google paid to settle a probe over its privacy practices in 2012.

The FTC’s probe of Facebook began in March as a response to reports about the social giant’s entanglement with Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that improperly accessed data on 87 million of the social site’s users. The agency’s inquiry focuses on whether Facebook’s conduct — along with a series of additional privacy mishaps made public in recent months — amount to violations of a 2011 agreement Facebook brokered with the FTC to improve its privacy practices. Facebook has maintained that it did not breach that accord.

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