UK Regulators Want To Probe Facebook, Cambridge Analytica

Facebook Logo January 2018 AH 1

Lawmakers in the UK are seemingly also planning to launch an investigation into the alleged misuse of the vast trove of Facebook user data perpetrated by Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that allegedly harvested the personal data of 50 million Facebook users just a few years ago as part of a broader effort to sway the American election results in 2016 presidential poll. It was reported quite recently that US lawmakers already set things in motion, but nothing has been officially confirmed just yet. In the UK, MP Damian Collins, chair of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, promised to summon the executives of both companies, Alexander Nix and Mark Zuckerberg, for a more thorough investigation into the controversy that highlights the dark side of Facebook’s privacy practices.

Mr. Collins claimed that both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook previously misled his committee during a testimony, with Mr. Nix denying to regulators that the data analytics company received data from the Global Science Research (GSR). The UK lawmaker said his committee will call for Mr. Nix’s appearance next week to shed light on his previous, likely false, testimony as well as on the potential connection between Cambridge Analytica and GSR, including its affiliated firms. Mr. Collins further stated that his investigation team plans to call on Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg or any senior executive of the social networking site to testify before the committee. Shortly after acknowledging the alleged user data abuse, Facebook suspended the account of Cambridge Analytica for the apparent violations of the company’s terms and conditions, though it did not help Facebook from losing approximately $37 billion of its market capitalization, with Zuckerberg himself losing $5 billion of his net worth at the close of NASDAQ trading on Monday.

In the United States, Adam Schiff of the House intelligence committee called for an in-depth probe on Cambridge Analytica and requested an explanation from Facebook regarding the method with which it gave access to private user data to Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American professor who acquired those pieces of information from the social networking giant under the pretext of academic research, but in reality turned over the data to Cambridge Analytica. The United States Federal Trade Commission also reportedly launched a probe on Facebook’s data privacy practices, with the agency’s investigation being limited to a settlement it signed with Facebook in 2011 mandating the company to get permission from users when making privacy settings and policy changes.