FTC Investigating Facebook's Data Privacy Scandal: Report

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The United States Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook’s data privacy scandal, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing a source with knowledge of the development. The extent of the agency’s probe remains limited to a settlement it signed with the social network in 2011 when Facebook pledged to acquire explicit consent from users in regards to making privacy settings and policy changes. The goal of the decree signed with the FTC was to prevent the company from misleading users into agreeing to drastic privacy reductions without being fully informed of the matter, with the move itself being initiated by the federal government after Facebook changed a number of privacy settings without informing its users of the thereof.

It’s presently unclear whether the probe is already official in nature as the FTC has yet to confirm it in any capacity. The European Union is also looking into the incident that saw digital research firm Cambridge Analytics harvest data of 50 million Facebook users without acquiring consent from over 99-percent of them. The company reportedly did so by using an online personality test which claimed the data will be used for academic purposes but also ended up collecting information on the participants’ Facebook friends and is said to have ended up leveraging it to fight an information war in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. and influence voter behavior on behalf of the political right, according to the account of Christopher Wylie, a former employee who went public with the information on Sunday.

Facebook already lost approximately $37 billion in market capitalization on Monday and continued declining today. The firm insists the incident cannot be described as a data “breach” given how Cambridge Analytica’s 2014 activities were in line with its terms of use, even if they aren’t today. The Menlo Park, California-based social media giant also said it asked the company to purge the controversially obtained data in 2015 but that request hasn’t been complied with, fully or at all. Facebook is now facing a high risk of being hit with additional regulations in its home country, even as the ruling Republican party traditionally opposes such moves, many industry watchers believe.