Facebook Takes a Tumble, as Federal Trade Commission Announces Investigation Into Privacy Practices

FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2016 file photo, Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, waves at the CEO summit during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Lima, Peru. Zuckerberg released a missive Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, outlining his vision for the social network and the world at large. Among other things, Zuckerberg hopes that the social network can encourage more civic engagement, an informed public and community support in the years to come. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

Sucks to be Mark Zuckerberg, right now.

The privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and the question of Facebook’s security practices from last week is not just going away.

On Monday morning the Federal Trade Commission acting Director Tom Pahl announced that the agency has opened an investigation into the way Facebook is handling the privacy of its members.

Facebook stock prices plunged following the announcement, and Zuckerberg is facing the possibility of heavy fines, as well.

In 2011, a “consent decree” regarding the use of private data was entered into by the company, and if this proves to be a violation of that, well…

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, which could add up to billions of dollars.

The move represents a huge blow to Facebook, which has been plunged into crisis by the disclosure that Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal data of 50 million American users which was then used by the Trump campaign before the 2016 election to micro-target advertising.

Shares in Facebook fell from an opening price of $160.82 to as low as $150.36 in the minutes after the announcement was made.

YIKES!

Speaking of “Yikes,” of those things that Facebook is in hot water over today is news that for those with Android phones who have the Facebook app, the company has been grabbing data from those phones, including the numbers called to (and from) or texted, and handing them off to interested parties for years.

That’s just about everybody, isn’t it?

Lawmakers have been discussing getting Zuckerberg in to testify about his site’s privacy practices, so that looks more likely to happen, now. He’s insisted that he’s already sent representatives with all the information to speak to Congress, but it’s doubtful that will be enough.

In announcing the investigation, Pahl gave this statement:

Pahl said: ‘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.

‘Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements.

‘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.’

Facebook took out a full page ad in nine different newspapers on Sunday, apologizing for the data breach that affected over 50 million users. The ad did not mention Cambridge Analytica.

It was after the ads were released that Facebook users discovered how the Facebook app had been accessing the information on their phones.

One user, Dylan McKay, reported that from October 2016 to July 2017 his logs contained ‘the data of every [mobile] call I’ve made, including time and duration’ and ‘data about every text message I’ve received or sent’.

The discoveries came after some Facebook users tried to delete their profiles over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

When they attempt to delete, the site suggests they only “deactivate,” because that leaves all of their information on the site. If they move forward with the deletion, it suggests they download their info from the site, and that’s how they find just how much of their info has been saved.

It is this data dump which revealed the extent of the data held. User Mat Johnson said he found his deleted Facebook profile data dump contained information on ‘every single [mobile] phone call and text I made for about a year’.

Emma Kennedy tweeted that she had found that Facebook had recorded ‘every single phone number in my contacts.

‘They had every single social event I went to, a list of all my friends and their birthdays, and a list of every text I’ve sent’

‘They have plundered my phone. They have phone numbers of people who aren’t on Facebook. They have phone numbers of household names who, I’m sure, would be furious to know their phone numbers are accessible. I’m appalled.’

Pretty shocking stuff.

Is it too late for MySpace to make a comeback?