The federal investigation into Facebook’s data sharing with Cambridge Analytica has been expanded to look into the tech giant’s actions and statements as well as added three other agencies into the discussion.
People familiar with the official inquiries told the Chicago Tribune that the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission have been included in the Justice Department’s questioning of the personal data of 71 million Americans shared between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The five people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
In 2015, Facebook discovered that the British political consulting firm had used Facebook data to create voter profiles, but the tech company didn’t disclose that information until March 2018.
Federal Investigators want to know what Facebook knew three years ago when the information was disclosed and why it didn’t say anything at the time to Facebook users or investors.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in April will also be scrutinized as part of the expanded investigation.
“The fact that the Justice Department, the FBI, the SEC and the FTC are sitting down together does raise serious concerns,” David Vladeck, former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, told The Washington Post. Although he doesn’t have direct knowledge of the investigation, the agency combination “does raise all sorts of red flags.”
In May, Fox News reported that Cambridge Analytica, which worked for President Donald Trump and other Republican candidates, has stopped its operations.
“Earlier today, SCL Elections, as well as certain of its and Cambridge Anaytica LLC’s U.K. affiliates filed applications to commence insolvency proceedings in the U.K.,” the company said in a press release. “The Company is immediately ceasing all operations and the boards have applied to appoint insolvency practitioners Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP to act as the independent administrator for Cambridge Analytica.”
The political consulting firm, for its part, has repeatedly denied Facebook’s accusations that they acquired the user data improperly, according to The Washington Post.
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Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who works with Cambridge Analytica, has argued that he received the permission to use the data after he changed the terms of service of the quiz app he used to gather data on Facebook users and their friends, according to The Washington Post.
Although Facebook stopped app developers from gathering information about a user’s Facebook friends in 2015 and 2015, it still shared data with a select group.
Since the scandal broke, Zuckerberg and his company suspended about 200 apps that will be investigated to see whether they misused user data.
“Where we find evidence that these or other apps did misuse data, we will ban them and notify people via this website. It will show people if they or their friends installed an app that misused data before 2015 — just as we did for Cambridge Analytica,” Vice President of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong wrote on the Facebook newsroom website.
The FTC has opened its own probe into whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree on privacy practices. It could potentially fine the tech giant billions of dollars.
A vocal group of Facebook investors said that the time has come for the company to jettison Zuckerberg during a May shareholder meeting.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, take a page from history. Emulate George Washington, not Vladimir Putin,” investor James McRitchie said, according to Fortune.
“If ‘privacy is a human right,’ as stated by Microsoft’s CEO, then we contend that Facebook’s poor stewardship of customer data is tantamount to a human rights violation,” Christine Jantz, chief investment officer at NorthStar Asset Management, said during the meeting, CNN reported.
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