The federal probe of Facebook's data privacy scandal involving data analytics and political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica had its focus broadened and is now a multi-agency initiative, The Washington Post reports, citing insiders familiar with the development. The investigation that was originally started by the Justice Department now also includes the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Trade Commission, as per the same report. The FTC already confirmed an independent probe of Facebook's missteps in late March.
All four agencies are said to be primarily interested in the steps Facebook took in 2015 after finding out that Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested data of approximately 71 million Americans a year earlier. Among other things, the investigators are pushing for answers on why the social media giant hasn't publicly disclosed the ordeal, letting affected users know their data has been compromised. As only a fraction of those affected by the incident actually gave their permission to have their data mined, informing them that their information ended up with third parties should have been a higher priority for Facebook, many privacy advocates previously claimed. The newly combined federal probe into the world's largest social media network has yet to be completed and its current status remains unclear.
Facebook previously said it was provided with legal assurances that Cambridge Analytica deleted the controversial data in 2015, a year after the company's terms of service forbade developers to mine information on their users' Facebook friends. Later reports indicated that wasn't the case, with Cambridge Analytica itself describing the situation as a non-issue and a smear campaign, maintaining it employed standard industry practices and did nothing illegal. Later reports largely corroborated those claims, having revealed many other developers have been obtaining Facebook user data using questionable means. The Menlo Park, California-based company said it's collaborating with federal investigators in the U.S., as well as authorities in the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions looking into its privacy policies and practices. Cambridge Analytica declared bankruptcy this spring, with its assets and many employees remaining in the data industry. Facebook is trading at over $197 per share as of Tuesday morning ET, some 14 points higher than it did prior to the emergence of the Cambridge Analytica debacle in late March.