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How big could Facebook’s fine theoretically get? Here’s a hint: There are four commas, and counting.

Former Federal Trade Commission officials have been pulling out their calculators in recent weeks trying to figure out just how big a fine the commission could levy against Facebook for its latest privacy mishaps. Then they look at the numbers on their screens — if their calculators can even handle 13 digits — and try to put the massive scale into words.

William Kovacic, a former FTC chairman, may have come closest when he joked that the potential fine as totaling “more money than there is on the planet.” In other words, the theoretical limit to the fines could reach into the trillions of dollars should the FTC — in the investigation it started last month — find Facebook violated its 2011 consent decree on a scale affecting more than 100 million Americans.

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