Tensions continue to ratchet up for Facebook, on Monday after revelations over the weekend that more than 50 million user profiles the social media giant shared with data firm, Cambridge Analytica, were manipulated without users’ consent to support political campaigns.
Shares careened wiping around $36bn off its market value at close on Monday. On Tuesday, Facebook closed down -2.56% buffetted by a full media-driven and political onslaught.
Soon investors may want to ask their own questions although as Nils Pratley in the Guardian points out that might be a tad difficult given the company's dual voting structure. CEO, Mark Zuckerberg owns 16% of shares and can exercise 60% of votes from a class of stock with 10 times the voting rights.
It's an ill wind, Facebook faces, as calls from governments in the US and Europe are intensifying for Zuckerberg to explain the company's governance of user data. And, this time, according to the UK government, to really explain.
A parliamentary select committee accused the company of misleading it during a previous appearance on 8 February about fake news. At the time, the company was questioned about the acquistion of personal data and consent from users.
Demands 'no more hiding behind Facebook'
Damian Collins MP in a response statement said: "We have repeatedly asked Facebook about how companies acquire and hold on to user data from their site, and in particular whether data had been taken from people without their consent.
"Their answers have consistently understated this risk, and have also been misleading to the Committee.
“Data has been taken from Facebook users without their consent, and was then processed by a third party and used to support their campaigns.
"Facebook knew about this, and the involvement of Cambridge Analytica with it, and deliberately avoided answering straight questions from the Committee about it.
"We need to hear from people who can speak about Facebook from a position of authority that requires them to know the truth. The reputation of this company is being damaged by stealth, because of their constant failure to respond with clarity and authority to the questions of genuine public interest that are being directed to them.
"Someone has to take responsibility for this. It's time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page."
Collins has written to Zuckerberg to come forward to give evidence and imposed a deadline of 26 March for Zuckerberg to respond.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the Federal Trade Commission (paywall) is said to be investigating the company over Cambridge Analytica's use of personal data. There is a possibility it violated a decree approved in 2012 requiring it to get user consent to collect personal data and share it.
The FTC has not confirmed or denied if it is undertaking such an investigation.
WSJ reported, "if the FTC finds that Facebook violated the decree, the firm could face millions of dollars in fines as well as harm to its reputation with users."
Tighter regulatory rein
Facebook has shuttled backwards and forwards under a glaring political spotlight for months now caught up in the swirling investigations of election meddling by Russia and the peddling of fake news.
Back in October last year, Facebook and other digital media companies, such as Google, were under intense scrutiny and facing tighter regulation from the UK media regulator, Ofcom, for the spread of extremist material online and concerns around bullying and safety online.
Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Kennedy in a joint statement singled out Facebook, Google, and Twitter and said they amassed "unprecedented amounts of personal data and use this data when selling advertising, including political advertisements.’
Kennedy and Klobuchar added, ‘The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights.’
Now, the clamour is growing for both Zuckerberg and COO, Sheryl Sandberg, to come to Washington DC as well to explain not only what was done but also how it was done and what they'll do to fix it.
The more the din increases the greater the likelihood that policies could be created to ensure protocols are in place to prevent it happening again.
Monster users of personal data
In its most recent statement Facebook said it "remain committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information. We also want to be clear that today when developers create apps that ask for certain information from people, we conduct a robust review to identify potential policy violations and to assess whether the app has a legitimate use for the data."
In the Facebook saga, psychology researcher Aleksandre Kogan mined the data from Facebook through creating 'thisisyourdigitallife' app, which was marketed to SCL. It then created Cambridge Analytica as a vehicle for its market reasearch.
The social network company said: "Kogan’s app would not be permitted access to detailed friends’ data today."
Facebook wants the public to know it's moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims. However, as Collins demonstated and as news reports show, this wasn't a breach by Cambridge Analytica, but was deliberate.
For two years, the firm touted its data capturing capabilities to clients in the political sphere based on its capture of 50 million profiles from Facebook.
The response of legislators could spell bad news for the many social media and online firms who have profited from exploiting the public's private data.