Facebook's announcement in late April that it had set aside US$3 billion to US$5 billion to settle claims that it mishandled users' personal data suggested a strong consensus by federal regulators that the social media giant needed to be held accountable.

But the reality behind the scenes at the Federal Trade Commission is far more complicated, reflecting the politics and give-and-take of the negotiations.

The FTC's five commissioners agreed months ago that they wanted to pursue a historic penalty that would show the agency's teeth. But now, the members are split on the size and scope of the tech company's