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Irish regulators examine Facebook over storage of passwords

By
Clyde Hughes
A sign promoting Facebook privacy tools is seen at a pop-up kiosk at Bryant Park in New York City on December 13, 2018. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A sign promoting Facebook privacy tools is seen at a pop-up kiosk at Bryant Park in New York City on December 13, 2018. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 25 (UPI) -- Ireland's Data Protection Commission said Thursday it's trying to determine if Facebook violated European rules by how it stored hundreds of millions of user passwords on internal servers.

The commission said it's informed the social media giant it found the passwords were stored in plain text format on the servers. It added the inquiry is looking to determine whether Facebook has complied with "obligations" of the rules. Thursday marked the 11th time the commission targeted Facebook in an investigation.

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Wednesday, Facebook said it's expecting a fine of up to $5 billion from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over an ongoing data privacy investigation.

"We estimate that the range of loss in this matter is $3 billion to $5 billion. The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome," the company said in its earnings report.

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Chief Financial Officer David Wehner echoed the projection during a conference call Wednesday. He said Facebook expenses have risen 80 percent partly due the expected fine.

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"This matter is not resolved so the actual amount of the payment remains uncertain," Wehner said, adding that Facebook has been engaged in settlement discussions with the commission.

The fine indicates regulators believe Facebook violated its 2011 consent agreement with the FTC, in which the social media platform said it would create a comprehensive privacy program and seek "express consent" from users before sharing any private information. The penalty would be Facebook's first in the United States since the Cambridge Analytica scandal became public a little more than a year ago. The British firm used a quiz app to collect data on Facebook users and their friends without their knowledge. It facilitated the targeting of political advertising toward more than 87 million users.

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The appeal of Facebook and its associated websites, though, has not abetted with founder Mark Zuckerberg saying Wednesday users have reached 2.7 billion globally.

"This was a strong quarter, and our community and business continue to grow," Zuckerberg said. "there are now around 2.7 billion people using Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp ore Messenger each month, and more than 2.1 billion people are using at least one every day.

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"We're continuing to see fast adoption of Stories - which each of our three stories experiences -- Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp -- having more than a half-billion daily actives."

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