Here's where Facebook's record $5 billion fine goes

Key Points
  • Facebook's record-breaking $5 billion fine is required by law to go straight to the U.S. Treasury.
  • The money goes to the department's general fund.
The Facebook logo is displayed during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on April 30, 2019 in San Jose, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Facebook's record-breaking $5 billion fine for user privacy issues came in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, but the cash-strapped agency isn't expecting any windfall to its budget.

By law, the money goes to U.S. Treasury's general fund, according to the FTC.

"There's nothing else that can be done with the money," James Kohm, head of the FTC's enforcement unit, said during a press conference on Wednesday. "I just know that this amount of money pays back the Treasury for approximately the last 25 years of the agency's operations."

It's up to federal officials to determine how the general fund, often referred to as "America's checkbook," will be spent.

The fine is the largest ever imposed by the FTC against a tech company, topping the previous high set in 2012 by Google when it was hit with a $22.5 million fine for its privacy practices. It's also the biggest fine ever levied against a company for violating consumers' privacy.

In some FTC cases, the agency will earmark money to pay out to consumers seeking redress or use it to fund consumer education. But Facebook's FTC settlement will go straight to the U.S. Treasury, meaning Facebook users don't have the option to receive compensation and it won't help boost the FTC's resources, which are stretched thin under its $306 million budget.

The $5 billion is a fraction of Facebook's overall revenue, representing approximately 9% of the company's 2018 revenue.

Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos on the FTC's record fine
Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos on the FTC's record fine