PH privacy body to investigate massive Facebook data scandal

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After downloading my stored data on the site I've been a member since 2004 I was presented with an enormous amount of personal details that have been collected about me over the years | Photo from CNNMoney/Getty Images

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 13) — The Philippines' data privacy regulator has demanded the cooperation of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as it is set to launch an investigation on how the massive Facebook data breach has affected Filipino users.

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) sent a stern letter to Zuckerberg. It was obtained by the media on Friday.

"We are launching an investigation into Facebook to determine whether there is unauthorized processing of personal data of Filipinos," the letter dated April 11 read.

National Privacy Commission will look into how Facebook shares the personal data of Filipino users with unauthorized third parties.

It required the founder of Facebook to provide the government information on how the personal data of the 1.8 million affected Filipino users was shared to unauthorized third parties.

"As the Philippine data privacy authority, we are directing you to furnish this Commission with information relevant to the processing of Facebook data of affected Filipinos, and how personal data is generally shared with third parties using your platform," NPC said.

NPC said failure of Facebook to submit the "required" documents within 15 days will prompt the privacy body to "take further corrective actions."

There are over 67 million Facebook accounts in the Philippines, according to a 2018 report by UK-based consultancy firm We Are Social.

Massive data breach

The data on Facebook users was gathered through a survey app on Facebook called "This Is Your Digital Life." It was shared without authorization to third-parties, including Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data firm that reportedly worked to develop techniques to influence voters.

NPC said they were told by Facebook representatives that 558 Filipino Facebook users installed Aleksandr Kogan's personality quiz app, through which personal data may have been "improperly shared" with the controversial political data firm.

Those who accessed the app, did not only put their personal data in jeopardy, but also the data of all their Facebook friends.

Because of this, 1.2 million more Filipinos have been indirectly affected by the data scandal - making the Philippines the second most affected country in terms of total number of data subjects.

Worldwide, the number of Facebook users whose personal information was accessed by Cambridge Analytica is pegged to be over 87 million accounts, whistleblower Christopher Wylie said.

Private messages, birthdays, and more personal information were collected by Cambridge Analytica.

Meanwhile, NPC has urged Filipino Facebook users to remain vigilant and prudent with their online activities.

"We encourage the public to exercise a new level of care about their privacy and to take part in forming the future of Facebook in the country," it said.

CNN Philippines correspondent Triciah Terada contributed to this report.