Facebook is officially under investigation by US regulators

Facebook Cambridge Analytica

A US regulatory agency has confirmed it's investigating Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica (CA) data scandal

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was already reported to be investigating Facebook following revelations that data from 50 million users was used by CA to develop software that predicted those users voting patterns. 

Additionally, this information was reportedly used to generate micro-targeted ads with the aim of influencing US voters' decisions at the polls. 

With today's announcement, the FTC is making its investigation official. 

"...the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook," the FTC's statement reads. "Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices."

Facing fire

In its statement, the FTC notes one of the tools in its arsenal to protect consumer privacy is "enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises ... or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act."

The agency also says that, "Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements."

A 2011 settlement with the FTC required Facebook to improve its privacy settings so that third parties couldn't acquire user data without their express knowledge or consent. 

In today's statement, the FTC alludes to the fact that Facebook may have violated the terms of the 2011 settlement. 

Facebook could face a fine of $40,000 per violation of the settlement, which would be a substantial sum if multiplied by 50 million. 

The FTC isn't the only regulatory body looking into the scandal. Just a few days ago, officials from the British Information Commissioner's Office searched Cambridge Analytica's London offices as part of the agency's larger investigation into Facebook, according to Reuters

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gone on the defensive in the wake of the CA revelations, appearing on news programs and taking out full-page newspaper ads over the weekend to say "sorry" for breaching user trust.

We'll have to wait and see what the FTC's investigation turns up, but this scandal isn't going away for Facebook anytime soon.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.