A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
The Justice Ministry’s Privacy Authority gave notice to Facebook on Thursday that it has opened an administrative investigation on whether the social media giant violated Israelis’ privacy rights.
The opening of the probe follows the news about the misuse of tens of millions of Facebook users’ data by British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
According to Israel’s privacy law, private information can only be used by third parties for the purpose the information was given, and such information can only then be passed onto other parties with permission from the person whom the information is about.
The authority said it would use that law as a guideline to determine whether Israeli Facebook users’ rights had been violated.
Late on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for mistakes his company made in how it handled data belonging to 50 million of its users and promised tougher steps to restrict developers’ access to such information.
The world’s largest social media network is facing growing government scrutiny especially in Europe and the United States. This follows allegations by a whistle-blower that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users’ information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016.
“This was a major breach of trust. I’m really sorry this happened. We have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data,” Zuckerberg told CNN, breaking a public silence since the scandal erupted last weekend.
Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook that the company “made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”
He said the social network planned to conduct an investigation of thousands of apps that have used Facebook’s platform, restrict developer access to data, and give members a tool that lets them restrict access to their Facebook data more easily.
His plans did not mention a big reduction of advertisers’ ability to use Facebook data, which is the company’s lifeblood.
European governments expressed dissatisfaction with Facebook’s response and said the scandal showed the need for strong regulation.
“It shouldn’t be for a company to decide what is the appropriate balance between privacy and innovation and use of data. Those rules should be set by society as a whole and so by Parliament,” the British minister for digital, culture, media and sport, Matt Hancock, told BBC Radio. “The big tech companies need to abide by the law and we’re strengthening the law.”