The Zuckerberg empire is burning from all directions at once. Yes, the man who once called his users “dumb fucks” for entrusting him to be the steward of their personal data is in the midst of a disastrous and very public reckoning. Take a moment to process this unexpected turn of events if you must.
The epitome of Silicon Valley hubris, Zuckerberg so richly deserves to be forever clowned on for the utter gracelessness with which he tripped and continues to trip over his own dick. Since the scandal of Cambridge Analytica became international news, teams of expensive lawyers and public relationship professionals haven’t stopped the World’s Least Charismatic CEO from digging himself a hole big enough to fit, say, a 700-acre waterfront estate in.
Lawmakers, users, investors—all of them have very legitimate bones to pick with Facebook, such that it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep track of just which entities are currently threatening to depose tech’s boy-king. For your convenience, we’ve compiled them all here, and will continue to update them as this data fusking saga unfolds.
The Federal Trade Commission
Back in 2011, Facebook settled charges laid out by the FTC that it had “deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.” Part of settling that regulatory hiccup involved Facebook agreeing not to do that again.
Something about Cambridge Analytica obtaining the data of around 50 million Facebook users made the FTC think Facebook welched on that agreement, and acting director Tom Pahl on Monday confirmed that the FTC had opened an investigation into the company’s practices.
People With Lawyers
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, Facebook can’t stop getting sued. Of this rash of lawsuits, three come from shareholders who argue the company made false or misleading claims about the safety of its data that led to public fallout, which tanked the value of its stock—a thing shareholders tend to care about the price of. (Facebook has lost an estimated $100 billion in the past week and a half.)
A fourth and fifth came from non-shareholding Facebook users, alleging the company failed to protect their data despite knowing about Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of data on some 50 million users. Keep in mind, all five are class-actions that may eventually be joined by additional plaintiffs.
The final suit (so far) was filed Monday by Cook County, Illinois, and calls Facebook “the largest data mining operation in existence.”
Facebook, despite frequent and hollow references to a “community,” is at its core very much what Cook Country describes: a business that mines personal data to sell to advertisers. And unsurprisingly, it has cornered an outsized portion of the digital advertising industry. About 60 percent of online ad revenue in the US is split between just two companies: Facebook and Google.
It may not be a sea change yet, but a number of companies have already pulled advertising from Facebook. Those include the Mozilla Foundation, Pep Boys, Sonos, and German bank Commerzbank. Maybe they’ll come back into the fold at some later date, and maybe not.
The Federal Election Commission
Back in November when the general public thought Facebook was, at worst, a vehicle for propaganda through ads and posts made by political operatives, the FEC started looking into the company’s policies on advertorial transparency. Unsurprisingly, that’s still ongoing.
Two weeks ago the FEC proposed new transparency rules for companies like Facebook to follow—something that until very recently Facebook fought very hard to be exempt from.
Congress and Parliament
As a recent and staggeringly awkward CNN interview reminded the American people, Mark Zuckerberg is fucking awful at public speaking. In nearly identical statements to CNN, Wired, and the New York Times, he danced around the idea of testifying before Congress—claiming he might not be “the person at Facebook who [would] have the most knowledge.” The last time Facebook had the privilege of being grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, that person with the most knowledge was, it seems, company lawyer Colin Stretch.
At long last Mark’s day has arrived, as, in light of recent events, both Congress and British Parliament feel he’s eminently qualified to be raked over the coals. Zuckerberg has already decline to appear before Parliament. That august governing body helpfully suggested he testify via video link.
Did you use Facebook on an Android phone? Your calls and texts might have been scraped by a company you already hate!
Don’t even worry, though. Facebook—a company definitely not embroiled in a scandal due to its handling of sensitive data—has said it wasn’t looking at your chats.
It’s difficult to estimate how big the #DeleteFacebook movement is, or how many users have actually abandoned Zuckerberg’s walled garden. What we can say, however, is that trust in Facebook is low, and the company’s actions aren’t doing much to repair it.