Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says sharing of 87m people’s data was legal in US
Privacy agreement with US trade commission allows the sharing of information without consent, social network’s COO says
A Facebook tool that let people share their friends’ data with developers - and which was used by a researcher to scrape data from as many as 87 million people - complied with a 2011 privacy agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the company has said.
The tool allowed a researcher at Cambridge University to get the data through from 270,000 users who downloaded his quiz app.
The researcher later transferred the data to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The FTC is investigating whether Facebook violated the 2011 decree that requires the social network to get consent from users before sharing information.
“I think we’re very confident that that was in compliance with the FTC consent decree,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on Thursday.
A spokeswoman later clarified that the data on friends who were not direct users of the app was passed along in adherence with their privacy settings, sharing only public information.
Sandberg also said Thursday that “a few” advertisers have paused their spending as they wait for the company to answer questions on user privacy.
“We’ve seen a few advertisers pause with us and they’re asking the same questions that other people are asking,” Sandberg said. “They want to make sure they can use data and use it safely.”
Sandberg said she is having “reassuring conversations with advertisers, just as we are with people,” about how Facebook has built privacy into its system. The company makes almost all its revenue and profit from advertising.
As well as the 87 million users possible affected by the Cambridge Analytica data collection, Facebook admitted on Wednesday that the majority of its 2 billion users may have had their data scraped by third parties.
The crisis has led to broad questions about how Facebook treats users’ data.
Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is expected to testify about the issue at US congressional hearings next week.