Senate, UK Officials Investigate Facebook, Cambridge Analytica Over Data Breach

U.S. Senate and British officials have begun to investigate a massive data breach at Facebook and data consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica after reports revealed that 50 million Facebook users had their private information improperly accessed during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Senate Commerce Committee on Monday opened an inquiry into the data collection practices at Cambridge Analytica parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratory (SCL), and Facebook. The inquiry revolves around questions about why Facebook users were not notified when their data was accessed without their express consent.

Similarly, the U.K. Commons Committee on digital media also requested that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify before the committee about the breach, which it called a “catastrophic failure of process.”

British officials at the Information Commission are seeking a warrant to search the offices of U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica for evidence of improper practices, according to Reuters.

“We are looking at whether or not Facebook secured and safeguarded personal information on the platform and whether when they found out about the loss of the data they acted robustly and whether or not people were informed,” said Elizabeth Denham, head of Britain’s Information Commission.

According to The New York Times, Trump ally Robert Mercer offered funding to Cambridge Analytica during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in order to collect information on voters to tailor campaign tactics to specific demographics.

Cambridge Analytica has denied reports that the data was not deleted, and Facebook announced it’s own probe into whether the information was in fact securely discarded after the consultancy learned that its methods violated data protection policies, says Reuters.

The news also comes as British reporters recorded Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix describing tactics that could be used to trap political opponents, including bribes, blackmail, and “[sending] some girls around to the candidate’s house.”

Facebook stocks plummeted amid the news and user numbers declined in the U.S. and Canada.

The data breach signals the latest in a string of bad publicity over Facebook’s handling of sensitive information gathered about its users, and the company is still reeling from intense criticism over Russian infiltration of the platform to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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