Late on Friday, Facebook made an unexpected announcement: The data firm Cambridge Analytica, hyped as integral to President Donald Trump’s election, was suspended from the social network for using data collected improperly from Facebook users. Now the FTC has announced they will investigate Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
This Announcement from the FTC comes as the UK’s information commissioner says she is using all her legal powers to investigate the handling of millions of people’s personal Facebook data by the social media giant and by political campaign consultants Cambridge Analytica.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission plans to probe whether Facebook violated terms of a 2011 consent decree of its handing of user data that was transferred to Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time.
According to WaPo: Two former federal officials who crafted the landmark consent decree governing how Facebook handles user privacy say the company may have violated that decree when it shared information from tens of millions of users with a data analysis firm that later worked for President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Such a violation, if eventually confirmed by the Federal Trade Commission, could lead to many millions of dollars in fines against Facebook, said David Vladeck, who as the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection oversaw the investigation of alleged privacy violations by Facebook and the subsequent consent decree resolving the case in 2011. He left that position in 2012.