tuesday, 27 march of 2018

Facebook faces Federal Trade Commission privacy inquiry

The US Federal Trade Commission will investigate Facebookover how private data on millions of users was given to Cambridge Analytica.

The social network has been criticised for letting theanalysis firm scoop up data on 50 million users.

The information is believed to have been used to help DonaldTrump's 2016 campaign for US president.

The FTC said its probe would determine whether Facebook had"failed" to protect users' privacy.

News of the FTC probe, which former FTC officials say couldtrigger fines in the trillions of dollars - sent shares down 6.5% in afternoontrading in New York before they recovered slightly.

Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of ConsumerProtection, said it took the reports about user data going astray "veryseriously".

He said the FTC regularly took "enforcement action"against firms that caused substantial injury to consumers by breaking laws thatgovern how personal information should be kept safe.

Facebook is required by law to notify users and get theirpermission before data is shared beyond their preferred privacy settings inwhat is known as the "consent decree".

David Vladeck, the former director of the FTC's Bureau ofConsumer Protection, said that the penalty for each violation of the consentdecree is $40,000.

If the data of 50 million people were indeed compromised,the social network's financial exposure to fines could run into trillions ofdollars, Mr Vladeck told the Washington Post.

Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer for Facebook, toldCNBC it would "appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC mayhave".

The data was grabbed via an app that let people take apersonality quiz. Although only 270,000 people completed the quiz, the app wasable to exploit the way Facebook held data to get at information about millionsmore.

Facebook says it has changed its rules on user consent tostop other third parties harvesting data in the same way.

Also on Monday, a bipartisan group of attorneys generalrepresenting 37 US states wrote a joint letter to Facebook demanding answers towhat led to the breach and how the company allowed it to happen.

"As the chief law enforcement officers of ourrespective states, we place a priority on protecting user privacy, which hasbeen repeatedly placed at risk because of businesses' failure to properlyensure those protections," the group wrote.

The social network is also facing a probe by UK dataprotection regulators and the European Commission.

The announcement comes after Facebook placed adverts in USand UK newspapers apologising for losing control of the data.

In the ads, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said the companycould have done more to stop the data on millions of users going astray.

"This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry," theback-page ads said.

The company said it was taking steps to ensure the same typeof data loss could not happen again.

In separate development, the Republican chairman of apowerful senate committee said that he had invited Mr Zuckerberg to testify toa hearing next month "regarding the protection and monitoring of consumer data".

Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the upper chamber'sjudiciary committee, said he had also invited representatives from Twitter andGoogle to discuss "how such data may be misused or improperly transferredand what steps companies like Facebook can take to better protect personalinformation of users and ensure more transparency in the process".

Mr Grassley's panel is the third US congressional committeeto seek out Mr Zuckerberg's testimony in the wake of the Cambridge Analyticascandal, the Associated Press reports.

(Published by BBC, March 26, 2018)

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