It's variously being called one of the biggest data leaks in Facebook history and "unequivocally not a data breach." And it has lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic clamoring for answers. This weekend thrust Cambridge Analytica into the spotlight: In 2014, some 270,000 Facebook users took the quiz developed by researcher Aleksandr Kogan for Cambridge Analytica, purportedly for academic purposes. It provided a gateway into their friends' data, improperly giving Cambridge Analytica, which has been tied to President Trump's 2016 campaign, data on some 50 million Facebook users. Among the thorniest accusations: that it allegedly kept the information after saying it deleted it, and that Facebook has known about the incident for at least two years. The latest developments and reaction:
- Semantics: The New York Times quotes two Facebook execs' weekend Twitter posts that took issue with the characterization of things. "This was unequivocally not a data breach," tweeted Andrew Bosworth. "People chose to share their data with third party apps and if those third party apps did not follow the data agreements with us/users it is a violation. no systems were infiltrated, no passwords or information were stolen or hacked." Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos has deleted his tweets, but the Times has this one: "The recent Cambridge Analytica stories ... are important and powerful, but it is incorrect to call this a 'breach' under any reasonable definition of the term." Reuters' take on the responses: "tin-eared first lines of defense."
- UK wants answers: The British Parliament's media committee head wants Mark Zuckerberg or another higher-up to appear before his committee. "It's time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page," says Damian Collins.
- US, too: On the other side of the pond, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar called for Zuckerberg "to testify before Senate Judiciary," and Massachusetts' attorney general vowed to investigate on her state's behalf, reports the AP.
- FTC could get involved: The consent decree was created by the FTC in 2011 to dictate how Facebook treats user data: It includes notification obligations on Facebook's part and requires that users provide an OK before their data is shared in any capacity beyond what their privacy settings allow. Former FTC official David Vladeck tells the Washington Post the Cambridge Analytica incident "raises serious questions about compliance" with the decree and that he would "expect" the FTC to investigate. The decree stipulates each violation could incur a fine of up to $40,000, with the Post doing the math and putting the potential penalty—albeit an incredibly unlikely one—in the trillions. Facebook "reject[s] any suggestion of violation of the consent decree."
- Other shoe could drop? A report from the Financial Times suggests the plot could thicken for Cambridge Analytica. It reports the UK's Channel 4 News plans to this week air an undercover investigation in which CEO Alexander Nix and others in the company talk with reporters posing as potential clients about its practices.
- A word of warning: At CNBC, Matt Rosoff is critical of how Facebook has responded to this scandal and earlier ones, and he sounds this note of caution: "The actions of Facebook execs now recall how execs at Nokia and BlackBerry reacted after the iPhone emerged. Their revenues kept growing for a couple years—and they dismissed the threats. By the time users started leaving in droves, it was too late."
- Time to get tough: "No one can pretend Facebook is just harmless fun anymore," declares Ellie Mae O'Hagan at the Guardian. "An unaccountable private corporation is holding detailed data on over a quarter of the world's population. Zuckerberg and his company have been avoiding responsibility for some time. Governments everywhere need to get serious in how they deal with Facebook."
- Stock implications: Reuters reports shares are down about 4% in pre-market trading and notes that represents roughly $23.8 billion of Facebook's $538 billion market value as of Friday's close.
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