Stone Washington | Contributor
Facebook was forced to turn over crucial emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) during an ongoing investigation into the tech giant’s mishandling of user data.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was at least partially aware of third parties secretly harvesting user data from the social media network, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Back in April 2012, Zuckerberg was unaware of an app capable of amassing millions of Facebook users’ information gleaned from the platform. When questioning the origin of the app, Facebook employees reportedly said it would have been difficult for the company to intervene and prevent this.
While The Wall Street Journal hasn’t directly viewed the emails, it has reported on its sources’ characterization of the documents.
The FTC is currently investigating Facebook’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica secretly compiled the private data of 87 million Facebook users during the 2016 presidential campaign. The FTC is seeking to establish whether or nor Facebook violated its 2011 agreement to safeguard user data.
Following the investigation’s completion, Facebook expects to pay $3-to-5 billion in fines to the FTC.
Both Republican and Democratic senators have warned against merely issuing a $5 billion fine, saying that such a penalty constitutes as a “write-off” and would not be enough to reprimand the social media giant. Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley called on the FTC to impose harsher penalties and more restrictions on Facebook’s business practices.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, Facebook denied that neither Zuckerberg nor any other Facebook executive knew of the problematic privacy issues.
“We have fully cooperated with the FTC’s investigation to date and provided tens of thousands of documents, emails and files,” according to the statement, “At no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company’s obligations under the FTC consent order nor do any emails exist that indicate they did.” (RELATED: Facebook Disputes WSJ Report Suggesting Zuckerberg Was Possibly Aware of Privacy Violations)
Mari Smith, a social media thought leader and premier Facebook marketing expert, said Facebook’s denial of knowing anything about the data abuse is “playing semantics.”
“Although Facebook has made substantial changes since the investigation began, a multi-billion fine will not be enough to prevent them from collecting user data,” Smith told The Daily Caller. “Facebook has always maintained that they don’t sell user data, but does make this access to data available to advertisers.”
Smith admits that everything Facebook users do is tracked online; we all leave a virtual footprint on social media.
One way to avoid being tracked is by using Facebook’s Clear History, a long-awaited privacy feature that will let you wipe information the social network compiles about you from third-party apps and websites, including tracking cookies.
Smith alleges, however, that the average user doesn’t know that Clear User exists and Facebook most likely won’t make this app known: “Clear User is going to put control back into the users’ hand. My personal opinion is that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. There’s no telling how many others were involved in this.”