The acting director of the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection division confirmed Monday that the agency has opened an investigation into Facebook's data-sharing practices.
Facebook has been under fire since reports surfaced that the political-data firm Cambridge Analytica had obtained data for 50 million Facebook users and failed to delete it. The firm obtained the data from Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge who created a psychology quiz that scraped data from test-takers as well as their friends, and used the data to create psychological profiles to better target its political messaging.
Facebook could be in violation of a 2011 agreement with the FTC "that required the social network to obtain affirmative consent from users before accessing or sharing data about them beyond what they’ve explicitly agreed to," according to Slate.
"The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act," FTC Acting Director Tom Pahl said in a statement. "Accordingly, the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices."
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called on Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg to testify before congress at an April hearing on data privacy.