–Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group
The Federal Trade Commission confirmed Monday that it is investigating Facebook’s privacy practices amid reports that the social media giant inappropriately shared user data with consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
“The FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook,” Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said Monday in a statement. “Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”
Facebook has faced criticism since reports surfaced that Cambridge Analytica got access to the data of about 50 million Facebook users inappropriately.
Citing unidentified sources, Bloomberg News reported last week that the FTC was investigating whether Facebook violated the terms of a consent decree it reached with the FTC in 2011 over privacy concerns.
The decree required the company to “notify users and receive explicit permission before sharing personal data beyond their specified privacy settings,” CNBC reported. Officials declined to confirm the report.
If found in violation of the decree, Facebook could face a fine of $40,000 per violation, CNBC reported.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement last week that Cambridge Analytica got data gathered from a personality quiz app created in 2013 by Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan. The app, which was installed by about 300,000 people, asked users to share their data as well as the data of their friends, Zuckerberg said.
“Given the way our platform worked at the time, this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data,” Zuckerberg said.