The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it is investigating privacy practices of Facebook, following the revelations that Cambridge Analytica used private data of 50 million Facebook users without their consent.
All the data that was collected was carried out through an app that allowed people take a personality quiz. Even though only 270,000 people completed the quiz, the app reportedly exploited the way Facebook held data to seek information about millions of other users, such as friends of those taking the quiz.
By issuing the FTC probe it aims to determine whether the social media site had ‘failed’ to protect users’ privacy, if so the probe is likely to trigger fines in trillions of dollars.
FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection acting director Tom Pahl said that the commission took the reports about user data going astray very seriously, with the FTC regularly taking ‘enforcement action’ against firms that break laws regarding how personal information should be kept safe.
With the implementation of GDPR just under two months away, it is crucial that businesses and large organisations are adhering to the requirements or face the consequences.
Facebook is not exempt from the rule and is required to get user’s permission before their data is shared beyond their preferred privacy settings, in what is known as the ‘consent decree’.
“The FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices,” the commission said in a statement.
According to reports, if the company is found guilty, it could be fined up to $40,000 per violation. Facebook said it will comply with the FTC. Facebook is also facing a probe by UK data protection regulators and the European Commission.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already apologised for the data mishandling, both in media interviews and in full-page newspaper advertisements. However, a UK parliamentary committee had called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify, but as recently as today the founder has refused to make an appearance in front of MPs.
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The social media company said it was taking steps to ensure the same type of data loss could not happen again. Facebook deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman said it would “appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have”.
Three US congressional committees have also sought Zuckerberg’s testimony in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.