EU and U.S. castigate Facebook on Cambridge Analytica scandal as citizens’ data privacy goes down the drain again

Last Monday, the European Commission sent a letter to Facebook asking whether EU citizens were involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The EU is taking the turn from U.S. which has already opened an investigation to find out how Facebook permitted data breach of 50 million users.

Facebook has been experiencing fierceful attacks both by the regulators and the market. The multinational company officials have to explain how a political consultancy managed to build voter profiles on behalf of Donald Trump’s campaign by using Facebook data the moment that the U.S. firm already loses more than 70 billions of dollars.

EC expresses data privacy concerns

The executive body of the EU mobilised two days ago when the EU justice Commissioner Vera Jourova sent to Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg a letter requesting for further details on the scandal. More specifically, Vera Jourova asked: “Have any data of EU citizens been affected by the recent scandal? If this is the case, how do you intend to inform the authorities and users about it?” Furthermore, the Commissioner wrote to Sheryl Sandberg to verify whether similar situations currently exist. Ms Jourova expects to receive an answer from Facebook’s COO within the next two weeks.

However, the answer, if any, is most likely going to be unsatisfying even if a Facebook spokeswoman said that it is going to take that chance to brief the Commission on the issue responding to the questions. The latter can be retrieved by the stance that the company is so far holding. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has already declined the invitations by British lawmakers who are asking him to explain how this data privacy breach happened.

EU citizen data exposed?

Germany justice minister Katarina Barley met with Facebook executives who verified her that about 1% out of the 300.000 users whose data are likely exposed came from Europe. The German minister underlined that promises of tougher controls by the giant social media company are not sufficient. More in detail, Katarina Barley mentioned last Monday: “Facebook admitted abuses and excesses in the past and gave assurances that measures since taken mean they can’t happen again. But promises aren’t enough. In future we will have to regulate companies like Facebook much more strictly.”

U.S. against Facebook

At the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opened an investigation last Monday about the privacy practices of Facebook and in particular the Cambridge Analytica scandal where the consultancy gathered data from 50 million Facebook users to be used to influence votes in the Brexit referendum and the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Moreover, the U.S. consumer protection regulator and attorneys representing 37 U.S. states requested clear explanations on the case.

Facebook founder has also been invited by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at an April 10 hearing. As if this wasn’t enough, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee formally asked Mark Zuckerberg to appear at a congressional hearing. U.S. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, commented on the issue that: “Facebook’s failure to protect confidential user information likely violated specific legally binding commitments, but also basic norms and standards”.

Market losses

The U.S. giant firm has been experiencing consequential losses as its share has dropped almost by 18% since March 16 when Facebook first acknowledged that user data had been improperly channeled to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook share has reached levels of July 2017 when its value was around 150$. As it seems, investors are highly affected by the recent scandal. How long is it going to last? Investors are most likely going to exploit this stock price drop and buy more basing their decision on the long-term growth prospects of the company.

Advertisers and users dissatisfaction

Apart from the billions of dollars that Facebook has already lost, the image of the company has also been affected. Several advertisers have been removing their Facebook ads. Wireless speaker maker Sonos stated that will remove advertising from Facebook while retailer Pep Boys, Mozilla Corp and bank Commerzbank AG suspended all advertising. Elon Musk deleted Facebook pages both for SpaceX and Tesla. What is more, opinion poll by Reuters/Ipsos which was released on Sunday showed that less than half of the Americans believe that Facebook follows U.S. privacy laws.

All in all, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is costing a lot to Facebook which will be pressured by the U.S. and EU regulators to alter its data privacy rules and provide more rigid protection to its users. It remains to be seen which other data privacy cases are going to be unveiled in the near future, the fines to be imposed and the measures to be taken in order to prevent similar data privacy violations.

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