The government shutdown is threatening to derail a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Facebook’s use of people’s private information, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing former government officials.
The FTC has been investigating whether the company violated a consent order it made in 2011 promising to notify people when their private information is handled by outside parties. Funding for the probe is likely to dwindle by Friday afternoon, the report notes.
“The key part of any investigation is the information-gathering stage, which is revealing documents and talking to people,” David Vladeck, a former director of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, told reporters. “It just stops. And it has to stop in an organized way.”
Yet, drawing out an investigation would allow more information about Facebook’s behavior to come to light. So, what began as a complex investigation could grow into a massive review of the company, which could bog down the FTC while also making life for Facebook more stressful.
For instance, the FTC significantly expanded the scope of its probes into Uber in April as new revelations came to light. The government shutdown comes at a crucial moment for Facebook and Silicon Valley in general, especially as some tech companies advocate giving the FTC more responsibility for regulating social media.
The report comes amid a hectic time for CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook revealed in September that hackers had taken advantage of a piece of code allowing them to take over users’ accounts. The company forced more than 90 million users to sign out to return the accounts to their creators.
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