FTC Finds Cambridge Analytica Engaged in Deceptive Practices

The Federal Trade Commission has put its official stamp on what most already knew: data company Cambridge Analytica "engaged in deceptive practices, in violation of the FTC Act--to harvest personal information from tens of millions of Facebook users for voter profiling and targeting."

It was already established that they had harvested the info, but the issued an opinion and final order Friday (Dec. 6)--the vote was 5-0--finding that the company had engaged in deceptive practices by doing so, as well as relating to its participation in the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework--the FTC said it claimed to be eligible for that privacy safe harbor when its certification had lapsed. 

The FTC had filed an administrative complaint against Cambridge Analytica and related execs for their role in the scandal, over which Facebook was fined $5 billion by the FTC, though its critics said even that whopping-sounding figure was a slap on a very big wrist.  

Related: Sen. Wyden Says Zuckerberg Should Be Liable for Privacy Violations

Then-CEO Alexander Nix and app developer Aleksandr Kogan settled with the FTC, but the company, which went bankrupt, did not respond to either the complaint or a motion for summary judgment, said the FTC. 

The 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..."

In a bit of irony, the FTC said at the end of the announced order that to learn more about consumer protections, one thing the public could do was "Like the FTC on Facebook."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.