WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton took to Twitter earlier this week to instruct users "it is time" to delete Facebook, having thus joined the online movement aimed against the world's largest social network which started late last week. The Menlo Park, California-based company found itself amid a major controversy after a Sunday account of one Christopher Wylie, a former employee of digital research company Cambridge Analytica who revealed the firm harvested data of approximately 50 million Facebook users in 2014 while only obtaining consent to do so from less than one-percent of them.
Facebook didn't refer to the incident as a data breach because the method used by the company to gather the data was in line with its terms of service at the time, with the social media giant claiming it requested the information be deleted in 2015, though apparently to no avail; according to Mr. Wylie, the data was used to profile American nationals and fight an information war with the goal of influencing voters during the 2016 presidential election in the United States on behalf of the political right. The ordeal is now being investigated by authorities in the European Union and the Federal Trade Commission, with many industry watchers predicting Facebook is facing a high risk of being hit with strict regulations, especially in light of other recent controversies related to its privacy policies and practices.
Mr. Acton's criticism is significant given his career history and the fact Facebook made him a billionaire in 2014 after buying WhatsApp for a reported $19.3 billion. The industry veteran left the firm last September to pursue non-profit work, at which point his net worth was estimated to be around $6.5 billion. Earlier this year, he founded the Signal Foundation which he currently chairs and oversees its activities aimed at creating an open-source solution for secure global communication. "Facebook must be concerned that this data breach incident could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for regulators," GlobalData Principal Technology Analyst Lynnette Luna said Thursday. Most industry watchers who publicly commented on the ordeal are in agreement that Facebook is becoming an increasingly likely target for privacy regulators in the West due to the Cambridge Analytica incident.