Facebook under FTC investigation over Cambridge Analytica flap – CNET

Facebook’s troubles aren’t going away. 

The Federal Trade Commission said Monday it has opened an investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices. As reported last week, the FTC is concerned about whether Facebook violated the terms of a 2011 consent decree. The decree mandated that the social media company notify users and obtain their consent to share information with third parties.

It’s just the latest shoe to drop in Facebook’s headache over its data breach to Cambridge Analytica. The social network is in hot water for letting data on 50 million users get into the hands of the data analytics firm, which was hired by the Trump campaign for the 2016 presidential election. The FTC stepping in signals more scrutiny by the government over Facebook’s actions. 

“The FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook,” Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, said in a statement. “Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”

Separately, 37 state attorneys general sent a letter Monday to Facebook full of questions for the company related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. “Facebook has made promises about users’ privacy in the past, and we need to know that users can trust Facebook. With the information we have now, our trust has been broken,” the letter says (PDF).

The misuse of the data, which was collected in 2013 through a personality quiz called “thisisyourdigitallife,” shed light on how poorly Facebook has handled your personal information. While only 300,000 people took the quiz, the app was able to grab data from an extended network of friends, a valuable trove of information that Cambridge Analytica used to great effect with its targeted political ads. 

Zuckerberg apologized to the social network’s 2.2 billion users and said he’s finally doing something about the app exploit. He vowed to investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information and “conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity.”

But Zuckerberg faces calls to testify before both the US and US governments. While in an interview with CNN, Zuckerberg said he would testify before Congress — with some caveats. 

“So what we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge about what Congress is trying to learn,” he said. “So if that’s me, then I am happy to go.”

Zuckerberg went on an apology tour last week following five days of silence on the matter. The lack of a response from the CEO spurred hashtags like #whereszuck and #deletefacebook, with companies like Tesla and Space X and individuals like Cher taking real action.

The 37 state attorneys general have specifically requested “prompt” answers to seven questions.

“Were those terms of service clear and understandable, or buried in boilerplate where few users would even read them? How did Facebook monitor what these developers did with all the data that they collected? What type of controls did Facebook have over the data given to developers?” the letter says.

“Did Facebook have protective safeguards in place, including audits, to ensure developers were not misusing the Facebook user’s data? How many users in our respective states were impacted? When did Facebook learn of this breach of privacy protections? During this timeframe, what other third party ‘research’ applications were also able to access the data of unsuspecting Facebook users?”

Facebook shares, which are down almost 14 percent since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke March 16, dropped nearly 6 percent in morning trading Monday. The stock recovered some but was down 3.66 percent at 10 a.m. PT.

First published at 8:51 a.m. PT. 
Update, 9:23 a.m. PT: To include additional background and context. 
Update at 10 a.m. PT: Adds letter from attorneys general and stock price.

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