The head of the European Parliament has announced that EU lawmakers will be launching a full investigation into the alleged abuse of Facebook’s user data. Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, said via his Twitter account that these allegations are “unacceptable violation” of the right to privacy of millions of Facebook users. The probe comes amid reports that data firm Cambridge Analytica misused the data of around 50 million Facebook users as part of an effort to boost the presidential bid of Donald J. Trump during the 2016 elections.
The New York Times recently reported that Cambridge Analytica mined private data from the Facebook profiles of those users without their consent, as revealed by former employees at the data analytics company. It was also revealed that Cambridge Analytica paid a third-party researcher in the person of Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American professor who acquired the information from the social networking giant under the pretext of academic research and turned over the treasure trove of data to the data firm. Facebook says the action clearly violates the company’s policies. The former Cambridge Analytica employees, as well as documents obtained from the company, also indicated that the data analytics company still possesses the data it harvested from Facebook, in contrast to its claim that the information had been deleted.
Facebook’s method of handling the data of its more than 2 billion users has been constantly under scrutiny at least in Europe. Last month, the Belgian Privacy Commission won a data privacy case against Facebook after the Brussels-based Court of First Instance found that the social media titan was guilty of various violations that compromised the privacy of its users. The court ordered Facebook to delete all the data it obtained illegally or face cumulative daily fines of up to €100 million, or $124.5 million. In May last year, two privacy watchdogs in Europe slammed Facebook over the way it collects data about its users, alleging that the company broke European rules surrounding privacy and data protection by obtaining information about users (and non-users) through third-party sites without their consent. Facebook was then ordered to pay a fine of €150,000 (approximately $164,000) to the French data privacy regulator while the Dutch privacy authorities had yet to impose a financial penalty on Facebook at that time.