Facebook's bottomless pit of scandals
Billions of fake accounts – May 23
Billions of fake accounts
Facebook reveals it took down 2.2 billion fake accounts between January and March of 2019 — a record high. That’s up from 1.2 billion and 694 million fake accounts taken down in the previous two quarters. Facebook has 2.38 billion monthly active users around the world. Fake accounts have allegedly been used to target elections and join Facebook groups to spread misinformation and deceptive stories.
Alleged misuse of data – May 10
Alleged misuse of data
Facebook sues a South Korean company, Rankwave, for allegedly misusing Facebook data to "create and sell advertising and marketing analytics and models,” which is against its policies. In the lawsuit filed in a California court, Facebook admits it hasn’t figured out what personal user information may have been misused by Rankwave, which offers apps to businesses and consumers. The controversy comes a year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal where an app developer working for the analytics firm allegedly set up a tool that accessed Facebook users’ information without their explicit knowledge.
Massive fine – April 24
Facebook braces for a substantial fine from federal regulators after a year of data privacy scandals. It discloses that an ongoing investigation from the Federal Trade Commission could result in fines ranging from $3 billion to $5 billion. Facebook sets aside $3 billion in legal expenses, which cuts into its profit for the first three months of 2019.
Email contacts collected without consent – April 18
Email contacts collected without consent
Facebook admits that it collected up to 1.5 million users' email contacts without their consent. It says the email contact lists were “unintentionally” uploaded to Facebook and it was in the process of deleting them. The issue came about after changes were made to the verification process used to create an account — people were no longer informed that their contact lists could be uploaded. A week later, the New York State attorney general opens an investigation into Facebook's unauthorized collection of this information.
Records exposed on Amazon’s cloud – April 3
Records exposed on Amazon’s cloud
Researchers at cybersecurity firm UpGuard find the private information from millions of Facebook records posted publicly on Amazon’s cloud servers. The data was stored there by two third-party developers, according to the researchers. Available information included names, passwords, email addresses, comments, reactions and account names. A Facebook spokesperson said it prohibits storing user info on public databases. When it was alerted to the issue, Facebook worked with Amazon to take down the databases.
Unmasked passwords – March 21
Facebook reveals it didn't properly mask the passwords of hundreds of millions of its users and stored them at plain text in an internal database that could be accessed by its staff. Facebook said it discovered the passwords during a security review in January and launched an investigation. It didn’t say how long it had been storing passwords in this way, but it plans to notify account holders if theirs were involved.
Alleged ad discrimination – March 19
Alleged ad discrimination
Facebook agrees to pay nearly $5 million to settle several lawsuits that allege its advertising platform allowed for discrimination in housing, employment and credit ads. From November 2016 to September 2018, the company was hit with five discrimination lawsuits and charges from civil rights and labor organizations, workers and individuals. They claimed Facebook's ad systems excluded certain people from seeing housing, employment and credit ads based on their age, gender or race.
Violent videos spread – March 15
Violent videos spread
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter struggle to halt the spread of horrific footage that showed the massacre at a mosque in New Zealand as it was taking place. Dozens of people were killed in shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million copies of the video from its platform in the first 24 hours alone.
More top execs leave – March 14
More top execs leave
Facebook announces the departure of two top executives just a week after the company laid out plans to reposition itself as a “privacy-focused” social network. The departures were reportedly linked to disagreements over Facebook's approach to personal data and encryption.
Site outage – March 13
A partial Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage affecting account holders around the world lasts almost 24 hours. It's believed to be the longest interruption ever suffered by the social network.
Facebook faces a federal criminal investigation into its data-sharing deals with a number of large technology companies, according to a report from the New York Times. A New York grand jury subpoenaed two well-known smartphone makers for records related to the investigation. Facebook had data-sharing deals with over 150 companies, which helped it gain users.
Ukrainian hackers – March 9
Facebook reveals that a pair of Ukrainian hackers used online quizzes and surveys to gain access to private Facebook user data and target users with "unauthorized" advertisements.
A senatorial challenge – March 8
A senatorial challenge
Senator Elizabeth Warren releases an aggressive plan as part of her presidential campaign platform to break up tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. Warren’s far-reaching plan would impose new rules on certain kinds of tech companies with $25 billion or more in annual revenue. It also aims to unwind some of the highest profile mergers in the industry, like Facebook's acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp.
Phone number fallout – March 4
Phone number fallout
Facebook faces criticism for not allowing users to opt out of a recently discovered feature that lets people look them up using their phone number or email address. Among those affected are users who only added their numbers to set up extra security protocols.
Criticism over anti-vaxxers – February 25
Criticism over anti-vaxxers
Facebook vows to take action against misinformation about vaccines after criticism arose over the prevalence of such content on the social media site. Public health experts pointed fingers at platforms like Facebook, saying false claims that vaccines cause autism and other diseases have frightened parents into refusing to vaccinate their kids.
European pushback – February 8
Germany's antitrust office rules that Facebook is abusing its market position by combining its data with information from Instagram, WhatsApp and third-party websites. The regulator orders Facebook to stop doing this in a ruling that could shape the company's future and potentially lead to its breakup.
App banned by Apple – January 30
App banned by Apple
Apple removes Facebook’s controversial market-research app, called Facebook Research, from its App Store. Facebook distributed the data-collecting app to consumers through a program intended only for internal employees, in violation of its agreement with Apple. Facebook paid teens and adults to sign up and to participate in the program.
Shared data scandal widens – December 18
Shared data scandal widens
A new report in The New York Times reveals that Facebook offered more of its users' data to companies — including Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify and Amazon — than previously revealed. Netflix and Spotify were reportedly given the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.
New internal documents – December 5
New internal documents
The British Parliament releases a set of internal Facebook documents the company had fought for months to stop from being made public. The documents involve claims about the company’s alleged disregard for user privacy, as well as a claim that Zuckerberg wanted to force Facebook’s rivals out of business.
A damning investigation – November 14
A damning investigation
Another major New York Times investigation suggests the company had not been forthcoming enough about Russian interference on its platform. The newspaper also reports Facebook hired a firm that scrutinized its critics, including the billionaire George Soros.
More stock declines – October 30
More stock declines
Facebook disappoints investors again with its latest earnings report. The company’s stock continues to decline.
New Facebook hack – September 28
New Facebook hack
Facebook says an attack exposed information on nearly 50 million users and gave the attackers access to those users' accounts on other sites and apps where they logged in using Facebook. It would later revise this number and say that 30 million people were affected.
Instagram departures – September 24
Instagram cofounders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announce they are leaving the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.
Sheryl Sandberg testifies – September 5
Sheryl Sandberg testifies
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells a US Senate committee that the company's "understanding of overall Russian activity in 2016 is limited because we do not have access to the information or investigative tools that the US government and this committee have."
Bans in Myanmar – August 27
Bans in Myanmar
Facebook says it has banned 20 organizations and individuals in Myanmar, including a senior military commander, from using its service. The company acknowledges that it was "too slow" to prevent the spread of "hate and misinformation" in the country.
The worst stock day in history – July 26
The worst stock day in history
Facebook stock has the worst day for a public company in history — it plunged 19% — after the company says revenue growth will slow as it "puts privacy first" and rethinks its product experiences. The selloff caused about $119 billion in market value to vanish.
The UK pushes back – July 10
The UK pushes back
UK regulators say Facebook broke the law by failing to safeguard user data, and by not telling tens of millions of people how Cambridge Analytica harvested their information for use in political campaigns. The company is eventually fined £500,000 — the largest amount allowed under Britain's data protection law.
Problems in India – July 3-4
Problems in India
WhatsApp grapples with issues in India after hoax messages sent on the Facebook-owned app are blamed for a spate of lynchings across the country.
More data-sharing deals – June 3
More data-sharing deals
Another New York Times investigation reveals the scope of data-sharing deals Facebook has with numerous tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft and Samsung.
WhatsApp co-founder quits – April 30
WhatsApp co-founder quits
Facebook-owned WhatsApp CEO and cofounder Jan Koum says he's leaving the messaging app.
Facebook still makes gains – April 25
Facebook still makes gains
Despite backlash from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook reports that it reversed its first-ever decline in daily active users in the United States and Canada during the first three months of 2018.
Zuckerberg testifies – April 10 - 11
Zuckerberg heads to Washington, DC and endures 10 hours of questions from almost 100 lawmakers about the company’s practices.
A scandal worsens – April 4
A scandal worsens
Facebook reveals that Cambridge Analytica had information on 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge – nearly 40 million more than what was previously reported. The same day, Zuckerberg admits that Facebook will never be able to fully protect its platform from abuse by bad actors.
Privacy changes – March 28
Facebook rolls out changes to give users around the world more control over their privacy settings. The changes complied with a new data protection measure in the European Union.
A visit to Congress – March 27
A visit to Congress
CNN Business reports that Mark Zuckerberg will go before Congress to testify about data privacy practices. The same day, he also turns down a request from British lawmakers to answer questions on the social network's privacy practices and Facebook says it will send two deputies instead.
Zuckerberg’s apology – March 21
"I'm really sorry that this happened," Zuckerberg tells CNN Business’ Laurie Segall about the Cambridge Analytica scandal in an exclusive interview.
‘Delete Facebook’ – March 20
WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton urges Facebook users to delete their accounts. His words are notable because WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. He joins a growing “delete Facebook” movement over data privacy and the spread of misinformation on the platform.
A bombshell investigation – March 17
A bombshell investigation
The New York Times and the Guardian report that a once-unknown data analysis firm called Cambridge Analytica tried to influence how Americans voted using information gleaned from millions of Facebook profiles.
Investors react – January 31
Facebook’s stock is rattled by news that people are spending less time on the service. The stock will fluctuate wildly over the next few months until settling into a steady decline.
New News Feed – January 11
New News Feed
Facebook announces it’s changing how News Feed is organized. It will prioritize posts from friends and family over posts from publishers and brands, even if it means the time people spend on Facebook goes down.
The year to fix Facebook – January 4
The year to fix Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg makes a lofty promise for 2018: Fix Facebook. The CEO says in a note that Facebook has work to do, “including protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” Turns out, saying that was easier than doing it.