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FTC Wades Into Facebook’s Latest Data Scandal

Facebook, the social media giant embroiled in a new consumer data scandal, is being pursued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the main agency for enforcing privacy policies.

According to news from Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter, the FTC is gearing up to send a letter to the company as it evaluates whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree in which it agreed to inform users if their data was being used without their knowledge or consent. The inquiry stems from recent news that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that took credit for President Donald Trump’s 2016 U.S. election win, gained access to the personal data of 50 million Facebook users and used it to target consumers during the run-up to the election.

“The FTC should give this situation a thorough look to determine if there’s a decree violation,” Gene Kimmelman, a former chief counsel of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, said in a statement to Bloomberg. “The FTC should use all of its power to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Following the data breach, Facebook said it was conducting staff-level briefings this week and that it would also brief the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and the commerce and intelligence committees in both the House and Senate. However, Facebook, which currently denies a violation of the consent decree, could face millions of dollars in fines if the FTC finds the social media giant at fault. Bloomberg noted the company could be fined more than $40,000 a day per violation.

“The FTC takes the allegations that the data of millions of people were used without proper authorization very seriously,” FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, a Democrat, said in a statement on Tuesday (March 20) to Bloomberg. “The allegations also highlight the limited rights Americans have to their data. Consumers need stronger protections for the digital age, such as comprehensive data security and privacy laws, transparency and accountability for data brokers and rights to and control over their data.”

Previously, an FTC spokesperson declined to comment to Bloomberg on whether or not the FTC was investigating the matter.

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