The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday confirmed that it had opened an investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices following reports that data from 50 million users landed in the hands of a political consulting firm with ties to President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE's campaign without their consent.
Tom Pahl, the acting FTC bureau chief for consumer protection, said in a statement that the agency would be investigating whether the incident constituted a violation of a 2011 agreement that Facebook signed to settle charges over other privacy concerns.
“Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements,” Pahl said. “Accordingly, the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook.”
Multiple news outlets reported the investigation last week, but the FTC had declined to confirm it. Monday's announcement is a rare move for an agency that typically doesn't acknowledge such investigations publicly until after they've been concluded.
The social media giant is facing a growing number of investigations from state attorneys general, Congress and European regulators following reports that Cambridge Analytica obtained information on 50 million Facebook users through a researcher who created a third-party application.
Multiple congressional committees are also urging Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles Webb: Big Tech won't change; the tech sector can Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Democrats press FTC to resolve data privacy 'crisis' MORE to testify about the incident and the company's handling of user data.
“We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information," Rob Sherman, Facebook's deputy chief privacy officer, said in a statement Monday. "We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have.”
Facebook in 2011 settled allegations that it had deceptively promised users to keep certain information private and had not informed users about the amount of data third-party apps would have access to.
Under the terms of that settlement, Facebook agreed to refrain from "making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers' personal information" and to submit to regular privacy audits for 20 years.
Facebook's shares were down 6 percent Monday morning following the news.