The US consumer protection regulator and attorneys representing 37 states stepped up pressure on Facebook Inc. to explain how the social network allowed data of 50 million users get into the hands of a political consultancy.
The US Federal Trade Commission announced on Monday it has opened an investigation into the company – which it generally only does in cases of great public interest – citing media reports that raise what it called “substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook”, Reuters reports.
On the same day, a bipartisan coalition of 37 state attorneys wrote to Facebook, demanding to know more about the company’s role in the manipulation of users’ data by the consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, which used it to target US and British voters in close-run elections, the news agency said.
“These revelations raise many serious questions concerning Facebook’s policies and practices, and the processes in place to ensure they are followed,” the letter said. “We need to know that users can trust Facebook. With the information we have now, our trust has been broken.”
The FTC investigation is looking at more than whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent order it reached with the FTC over its privacy practices, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters.
If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine it thousands of dollars a day per violation, which could add up to billions of dollars.
“We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information,” Facebook deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman said in a statement on Monday. “We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have.”
Lawmakers in the United States and Europe continue to pressure Facebook and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to explain the company’s privacy practices.
The US Senate Judiciary Committee said on Monday it has invited Zuckerberg, along with the CEOs of Alphabet Inc. and Twitter Inc., to testify at an April 10 hearing on data privacy.
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee and US Senate Commerce Committee have already formally asked Zuckerberg to appear at a congressional hearing.
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