The Federal Trade Commission has confirmed that it is investigating Facebook’s privacy practices after it was revealed that the company allowed Cambridge Analytica access to the personal data of some 50 million Facebook users without their expressed consent.
“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 agency said in a statement, after declining to comment last week when Bloomberg reported that an investigation has been opened.
Specifically, the investigation seeks to find whether Facebook violated a consent decree — which requires the social network to obtain explicit permission from users to share their data with third parties — that it signed with the agency in 2011. If Facebook is found guilty, the company could be fined up to $40,000 per violation, reports CNBC. For its part, Facebook said it would comply with the FTC, noting that it would “appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have.”
Today’s announcement follows a series of backlash against Facebook since the Cambridge Analytica news came to light, with a UK Parliamentary committee calling for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify, Facebook stock tanking and erasing billions off its market value, and user trust in the company continuing to decline. Zuckerberg has since apologized for the data mishandling, both in media interviews and in full-page newspaper ads, adding that he would be open to testifying before Congress if it is the right thing for him to do.
The FTC’s full statement is below.
The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act. Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements. Accordingly, 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.