Cambridge Analytica scandal: Facebook facing investigations in several countries

By Elton Gomes

Since news broke about Cambridge Analytica having gained access to over 37 million Facebook users’  data, the now-scandal embroiled social media firm has come under immense criticism from governments across the world.

To add to Facebook’s mounting problems, the social media company confirmed that “malicious actors” had been harvesting users’ data and profiles by abusing the company’s search tool.

An unnamed security expert told BBC that such an attack had likely been possible “for years”, indicating that the social media firm likely implemented potentially low security features to protect users’ data over the years.

Facebook’s officials have acknowledged the fact that the abuse of Facebook’s search tool occurred on a larger scale than expected, and over the course of several years. In other words, Facebook users are unlikely to escape the breach.

Facebook is already facing flak over the massive data leaks, and will now also have to contend with the ire of several governments attempting to investigate the social media firm over any other potential privacy breaches.

Investigations against Facebook

The Australian government has launched an investigation against Facebook to check whether the company violated any privacy laws. The probe comes after Facebook acknowledged that over 3,00,000 Australians’ data might have been leaked to Cambridge Analytica.

The firm could be slapped with a $1.5 million fine, in the event that the probe discovers any breach of Australia’s privacy act, NPR reported. According to a Facebook spokeswoman in Australia, the company will be “fully responsive” to the investigation. The social media giant also claimed that it has recently updated its privacy settings.

Australia’s investigation against the social media giant comes after its neighbour, New Zealand, became a fervent supporter of the #DeleteFacebook campaign. New Zealand was of the opinion that Facebook’s actions interfered with users’ privacy. The privacy commissioner of New Zealand, John Edwards has accused Facebook of not consenting to the country’s privacy laws.

After Australia and New Zealand accused the Facebook of violating privacy laws, the social media company now also facing yet another massive fine in Europe. A Belgian court is threatening to fine Facebook up to 100 million euros, if the company continues to violate privacy laws by spying on people via third party websites.

In February 2018, the Belgian court ordered Facebook to delete all data it had acquired illegally on Belgian citizens, including those who were not Facebook users. The court said, “Facebook informs us insufficiently about gathering information about us, the kind of data it collects, what it does with that data and how long it stores it,” Newshub reported.

Adding to Facebook’s woes, the Canadian federal agency, along with its counterpart in British Columbia will jointly probe the role of Canadian data firm AggregateIQ and Facebook in the ongoing data scandal saga. Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner mentioned that it will assess whether both the companies violated federal and provincial personal privacy rules.

Meanwhile, Katarina Barley, German justice minister, has called for a pan-Europe investigation against Facebook, in attempts to determine the company’s role in the data breach. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a crucial Congressional committee, as well as state prosecutors announced inquiries on Facebook’s privacy practices as well.

The FTC confirmed its investigations concerning the breach of 87 million Facebook users. The committee will assess whether Facebook breaches a 2012 privacy settlement it had finalised with the U.S. government. On April 10, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear before a judiciary committee to explain his company’s actions to the FTC panel.

Will Zuckerberg step down?

Facebook is up against a nearly insurmountable wall of problems and investigations. The company has said that it analyses conversations on its Messenger app, seemingly confirming previous allegations that it spies on its users.

As Facebook’s social image continues to take a beating, some believe that there are now possibilities of Zuckerberg might stepping down. Credit: Flickr

As Facebook’s social image continues to take a beating, some believe that there are now possibilities of Zuckerberg might stepping down.  However, Zuckerberg suppressed these rumours, claiming that he still is the best person to run the company.

Although Zuckerberg admitted that his company had made some significant blunders, he told a room full of journalists, “life is about learning from mistakes”.

“If we got this right we would’ve messed something else up,” Zuckerberg added, Business Insider reported.

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