FTC rules Facebook users deceived by Cambridge Analytica

The ruling comes 18 months after the scandal first broke.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has officially ruled that Cambridge Analytica deceived consumers by harvesting personal information from tens of millions of Facebook users. 

A unanimous opinion issued by the FTC confirmed allegations made in July [PDF] that Cambridge Analytica, app developer Aleksandr Kogan, and then-CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix had worked together to enable Kogan's GSRApp "to collect Facebook data from app users and their Facebook friends" through a personality-testing app. 

The regulator concluded that the app deceived users after stating to users it would not collect their names or other identifiable information despite it offering the collected data as part of voter-profiling, microtargeting, and other marketing services to US political campaigns and other US-based clients. 

The FTC's opinion also confirmed that Cambridge Analytica violated a pact between the European Union and the US, known as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which requires companies to protect consumer data moving from EU countries to the US. The pact requires participating companies to continue protecting any collected data, which Cambridge Analytica failed to do.

While Kogan and Nix agreed to settle the FTC's July allegations, Cambridge Analytica did not respond to the complaint or to a motion submitted for summary judgment of the allegations. Cambridge Analytica is currently under the process of filing for bankruptcy, which commenced shortly after the scandal was first uncovered.

The ruling will prohibit Cambridge Analytica from making any misrepresentations about the extent to which it protects the privacy and confidentiality of personal information, as well as require it to continue to apply Privacy Shield protections to personal information it collected, or return or delete the information. It also must delete any personal information it collected through the GSRApp.

The ruling comes 18 months after the events of the Cambridge Analytica scandal unfolded

In July, Facebook and the FTC agreed to a sweeping, $5 billion settlement related to Facebook's user privacy violations that arose from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. As part of the record-breaking settlement, Facebook agreed to conduct a massive overhaul of its consumer privacy practices. The settlement also removes CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook's sole privacy decision-maker. 

The FTC investigation alleged that Facebook repeatedly used "deceptive disclosures and settings to undermine users' privacy preferences" in violation of its 2012 agreement with the FTC. The FTC also alleged that Facebook was inadequate in dealing with apps that it knew were violating its platform policies.

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