Israel’s Justice Ministry has opened an investigation into Facebook amid reports of the transfer of users’ data from the social media platform to the British data-mining company Cambridge Analytica.
The ministry’s Privacy Protection Authority said in a statement that it will “investigate whether personal data of Israeli citizens was illegally used in a way that infringes upon their right to privacy and the provisions of the Israeli Privacy Law.”
Under the Israeli privacy law, personal data may only be used to the purpose for which it was given and with the consent of the individual.
Cambridge Analytica, a company launched by former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon and bankrolled by the Republican donor Robert Mercer, is alleged to have improperly received data on potential voters from a researcher and app developer who had violated Facebook policy.
Over the weekend, news outlets reported that the user data collected were used to influence the vote in the 2016 presidential election. The Trump campaign reportedly paid Cambridge Analytica more than $6 million, according to federal election records.
As many as 200,000 U.S. citizens live in Israel and have the right to vote in the U.S. election, Haaretz reported, citing iVoteIsrael.
Following the reports, Facebook’s stock took a hit, and American and British lawmakers called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify in front of various government committees.
Last week, Zuckerberg said in a statement that in addition to investigating other applications created before 2014, when it tightened its data-sharing policy, the company would also take steps to limit the data other apps could access and launch a tool to show users what apps have access to their data.
The CEO of Cambridge Analytica claimed to an undercover reporter posing as a potential client to have used Israeli companies and former Israeli spies in its intelligence gathering. The report by a British TV station did not connect the Israeli companies with the reported Trump operation. PJC