UniCredit reduces the connection with Facebook after a scandal with data violations

The boss of Italy’s biggest bank has ordered his staff to cut all the bank’s ties with Facebook in direct response to the social network’s behaviour revealed in the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.

“Facebook is not acting in an ethical way,” Jean Pierre Mustier, chief executive of UniCredit, said on Tuesday. “We will not use it until it has proper ethical behaviour.”

Mustier said that he had ordered the bank – which has more than 26 million customers – to terminate all advertising and partnerships with Facebook at the end of March. The move comes days after the Observer and the Guardian revealed that millions of mostly US Facebook users’ data had been harvested for use in political advertising in the run up to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.

Mustier said UniCredit “takes business ethics very seriously” and had cut all ties with Facebook.

His order to withdraw the bank from Facebook was in direct response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Mustier said Facebook had guaranteed its 2.2 billion users that it would not exploit or share their data with others, but the Observer/Guardian investigation proved the social network had breached its promise.

A UniCredit spokesman confirmed: “As of end of March, the Group decided to pause all advertising on Facebook until further notice.”

Facebook’s billionaire founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was hauled before Congress to answer questions about the data breach scandal, in which information from 87 million user profiles was harvested for targeted political advertising.

Facebook has also been under investigation by the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who blew the lid on “black ops” at Cambridge Analytica, told the US Senate: “In addition to Facebook data being accessed in Russia, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that CA may have been an intelligence target of Russian security services … [and] that Russian security service may have been notified of the existence of CA’s Facebook data.”

More than $120bn (£92.5bn) was wiped off Facebook’s market value in one day last month after Zuckerberg told investors that the reputational damage caused by the Cambridge Analytica scandal had dramatically slowed user growth. More than 3 million users in Europe have abandoned the network since the scandal came to life.

Other advertisers have threatened to pull back from Facebook, but few have stuck with a longterm boycott. Speaker maker Sonos said in March that it was “concerned by the recent revelations about Facebook and the exploitation of its platform” and withdrew its advertising – but only for one week.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “Advertisers care deeply about people and so do we. And while a handful of our advertisers have paused ads, many more have expressed their support for the steps we’re taking to protect people’s information. We take all of the feedback seriously – that’s why we’re working with our partners to make Facebook even safer and more secure for people.”

The author: Michel THEYS

Michel Theys, a Belgian native, began his career as a civil servant, serving the public for several decades. After retirement, he shifted gears to follow his passion for journalism. With a background in public administration, Theys brought a unique perspective to his reporting. His insightful articles, covering a wide array of topics, swiftly gained recognition. Today, Michel Theys is a respected journalist known for his balanced and thoughtful reporting in the Belgian media landscape.

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