Less than two weeks after allegations emerged that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested user data from Facebook in 2014, the Federal Trade Commission announced today that it is investigating “substantial concerns” about the privacy practices of Facebook.
The Washington Post reported last week that the FTC was investigating Facebook, but the agency just confirmed today that it has an open, non-public investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices.
“The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act,” a statement attributed to acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Tom Pahl read. “Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements.”
The Post reported that the investigation is specifically into whether or not Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree that ended an FTC-led investigation into Facebook at the time. The decree stipulated that the company must ensure that it gives consumers “clear and prominent notice” and obtain “consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.”
Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of scrutiny over the past 18 months, as reporters and politicians have sought to uncover the role it may have played in President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, the 2016 Brexit referendum, and other political campaigns around the globe. The Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in 2016 to work on its data operations.
Last week, Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO over Alexander Nix, and over the weekend, investigators raided the company’s London offices.
After the FTC released its statement on Monday, Facebook released a statement, attributed to deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman, that read “we remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have.”