Facebook Scrutiny Broadens As Federal Agencies Join Probe Into Cambridge Analytica Data Sharing

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Written by Ann Brown

The federal investigation is heating up into Facebook’s role in sharing data with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

The investigation has now broadened. The FBI, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission have all joined the Justice Department in the investigation.

Facebook shared the personal information of about 71 million Americans with Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica worked for President Donald Trump and other Republican candidates.

“The Capitol Hill testimony of Facebook officials, including chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, also is being scrutinized as part of the probe, said people familiar with the federal inquiries,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

While Facebook has confirmed that it had received additional questions from these three agencies, the Justice Department and the other federal agencies declined to comment.

“We are cooperating with officials in the US, UK and beyond,” said Facebook spokesman Matt Steinfeld. “We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged to continue our assistance as their work continues.”

According to the New York Times, five people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a probe that remains incomplete, said  “that the emphasis has been on what Facebook has reported publicly about its sharing of information with Cambridge Analytica, whether those representations square with the underlying facts and whether Facebook made sufficiently complete and timely disclosures to the public and investors about the matter. The Capitol Hill testimony of Facebook officials, including chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, also is being scrutinized as part of the probe, said people familiar with the federal inquiries,” the Washington Post reported.

“The fact that the Justice Department, the FBI, the SEC and the FTC are sitting down together does raise serious concerns,” said David Vladeck, former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and now a Georgetown Law professor. He said he had no direct knowledge of the investigation but said the combination of agencies involved “does raise all sorts of red flags.”

This latest news obviously is not good for Facebook, which is trying to put the two-year scandal behind. Facebook has argued that data gathering was an improper use, yet Cambridge Analytica maintains it did nothing wrong, especially since others used the same feature.  Facebook said it took steps to cease its connection to Cambridge Analytica when made aware of the data Cambridge Analytica had obtained. The tech giant said it investigated the analytics firm and “ordered them to delete the data and promise not to do it again.”

It is still not clear if the data was used by Cambridge Analytica’s client, the Trump campaign, but Cambridge Analytica claims it deleted the data as per Facebook’s request.

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FILE- In this Wednesday, April 11, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Zuckerberg repeatedly assured lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday that he didn’t believe the company violated its 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to overhaul its privacy practices. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

 

“Facebook stopped allowing app developers to gain information about a person’s Facebook friends in 2014 and 2015. It continued to share some data with a select groups of app developers and with device and software makers, including Apple, Amazon, Samsung and Huawei, before announcing it would curtail that amid a new wave of news reports this month,” the Washington Post reported.

In order to recover from the scandal, Facebook has audited thousands of apps and suspended 200 apps. It has further restricted access to data for all developers using Facebook as well as its sister service, Instagram.

Still, this Facebook has taken a major hit. “In March, the company’s stock dropped more than 13% in the week after the revelations. Financial regulators pay close attention to sudden moves in a company’s stock price,” the Washington Post reported. And in the end, an FTC fine could potentially cost Facebook billions of dollars.

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Shares in Facebook fell as much as 4.2% during pre-market trading in New York. Photo: AP

Facebook’s disclosures under scrutiny as federal agencies join probe of tech giant’s role in sharing data with Cambridge Analytica