Facebook searching for security acquisition as Japan criticises data protection efforts

Tim Maytom

Facebook is reportedly on the hunt for a major cybersecurity acquisition aimed at strengthening its capabilities in this area, prompted by recent security issues including a major data breach that affected nearly 29m users.

The search comes as the Japanese government called on Facebook to better protect its users' personal data, asking the social network to fully communicate security issues to users, increase surveillance of developers who provide applications on its platform, and keep regulators more informed of changes in its security measures.

According to The Information, which cites sources familiar with the matter, Facebook has approached several security companies about a possible acquisition, and while possible takeover targeted haven't been disclosed, a deal could be announced as soon as the end of the year.

Facebook originally suspected that as many as 50m user accounts were affected by the data breach, but has revised that figure to 29m users. The attack is suspected to have come from digital fraudsters masquerading as a marketing company, rather than hackers working for a nation-state, and affected users are believed to have had information including phone numbers, email addresses and recent searches leaked. Facebook is working with authorities including the FBI to investigate the attack and is remaining tight-lipped about the details, although it has said that it has no reason to believe the attack is linked to the upcoming US midterm elections.

While the September breach appears to have been due to a security flaw, Facebook is still facing criticism over its work with Cambridge Analytica, where personal information belonging to users who had never consented to sharing it was accessed by a firm working for various political bodies including the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign and the anti-EU Leave campaign.

Japan's Personal Information Protection Commission, which investigated the Cambridge Analytica incident alongside other governmental authorities, issued a statement today calling for improved user data protection, although the request carries no administrative orders or penalities, and isn't legally binding. According to the Commission, Facebook has promised that it will publish details on its Japanese-language website about how it plans to address the request. Around 100,000 Japanese users are believed to have been impacted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with an unclear number affected by the latest data breach.