Facebook Being Investigated Over Use Of Personal Data

posted by David Shepardson, Kate Holton -


The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook Inc over its use of personal data, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, after a whistleblower said a political consultancy hired by Donald Trump improperly accessed information on 50 million Facebook users to sway public opinion.

If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine the company thousands of dollars a day per violation. “We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have,” Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman told Reuters.

The White House said it welcomed inquiries into reports that Trump’s consultants misused Facebook data. “The President believes that Americans’ privacy should be protected … if Congress wants to look into the matter or other agencies want to look into the matter, we welcome that,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told Fox News Channel.


PERSONAL INFORMATION

In Britain, the Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, was seeking a warrant on Tuesday from a judge to search the offices of London-based Cambridge Analytica.

People were seen carrying multiple plastic storage containers into and out of the building that houses Cambridge Analytica’s London office, among other companies. It was not clear which firm they were going to.

“We are looking at whether or not Facebook secured and safeguarded personal information on the platform and whether when they found out about the loss of the data they acted robustly and whether or not people were informed,” Elizabeth Denham, the head of the Information Commission told BBC Radio.

Created in 2013, Cambridge Analytica markets itself as a source of consumer research, targeted advertising and other data-related services to both political and corporate clients.

According to the New York Times, it was launched with $15 million in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and a name chosen by the-then future Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon. Facebook says the data were harvested by a British academic, Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app on the platform that was downloaded by 270,000 people, providing access not only to their own personal data but also their friends’.

Facebook said Kogan then violated its policies by passing the data to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has since suspended both the consulting firm and SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories), a government and military contractor. Facebook said it had been told that the data were destroyed.

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(Photos: Getty Images)

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