For a long time it seemed like Facebook and its corral of code-cowboys were untouchable. That illusion has evaporated in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and now, Facebook is officially the target of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation in the US. It’s about damn time, am I right?
The FTC investigation is specifically looking into Facebook’s data handling practices. This is a sensible target, since it was revealed last week that profile information of over 50 million Americans was siphoned off using Facebook-sanctioned tools and then leveraged in elections by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy reportedly launched in part by Steve Bannon and contracted by the Trump presidential campaign. The FTC would not comment on the upcoming investigation last week but just confirmed it publicly.
“The FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook,” the agency said in a statement. “Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”
Facebook shares plummeted by more than 5 percent after the FTC announcement. This was just the latest plunge for a stock that is now 20 percent down from it’s 52-week high, a situation that’s erased tens of billions of dollars from the company’s market cap. Realistically, Facebook’s stock will probably bounce back, but pending any more government intervention, it’s not unimaginable that Facebook could walk away from this whole debacle a very different company, one that’s regulated and no longer free to exploit its position as one of the world’s biggest internet companies and track its users without consequence.