Early last year, Facebook was rocked by a scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that stealthily acquired personal information about Facebook users as part of a concerted effort to target voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The scandal catalyzed a nationwide discussion about online privacy and birthed the growing narrative that tech companies like Facebook wield too much power.
Nearly two years after the scandal first made headlines, the FTC today issued its formal opinion on the matter, noting that Cambridge Analytica deceived consumers with respect to the way it collected and used the personal information it gathered from Facebook users.
The FTC’s press release on the matter reads in part:
In its Opinion, the Commission found that Cambridge Analytica violated the FTC Act through the deceptive conduct alleged in the complaint. The Final Order prohibits Cambridge Analytica from making misrepresentations about the extent to which it protects the privacy and confidentiality of personal information, as well as its participation in the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework and other similar regulatory or standard-setting organizations. In addition, the company is required to continue to apply Privacy Shield protections to personal information it collected while participating in the program (or to provide other protections authorized by law), or return or delete the information. It also must delete the personal information that it collected through the GSRApp.
While many thought that the Cambridge Analytica scandal would ultimately cripple Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and co. have seemingly defied expectations and have weathered the storm. Today, Facebook is making more money than ever before, and its stock price was on the cusp of setting a new all-time record just today.
What’s more, a number of surveys over the past 20 months or so have shown that the majority of Facebook users haven’t altered their usage habits at all. The takeaway is that there’s something of a disconnect between how most Facebook users view the company and how those in the media view the company.
For what it’s worth, Cambridge Analytica did not cooperate with the FTC investigation. This, of course, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that the company officially closed up shop just two months after the scandal broke.