LONDON: Advertisers in the UK are ramping up the pressure on Facebook over the data breach controversy currently engulfing the company, with reports they may pull their budgets if it fails to provide assurances about the security of users’ data.

The Times reported that ISBA, a UK advertising trade body that represents 3,000 brands, is demanding answers about how users’ data could have come into the hands of third parties for the purposes of political advertising without their consent.

Sources close to ISBA told The Times that if Facebook’s response is unsatisfactory, then some of its advertisers – who spend hundreds of millions of pounds a year on the social network – may spend their money elsewhere.

Meanwhile, ISBA released a strongly worded statement, confirming that its members have a series of questions that need answering and that the organisation wants to meet Facebook representatives this week.

Although the ISBA statement made no mention of the possibility of its members pulling ad budgets, it made clear that the trade body wants a full account of further potential issues so that “advertisers can take appropriate measures”.

The row, which eventually forced Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to apologise on CNN and to admit to mistakes in a Facebook post, centres on claims that consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained the personal data of millions of Americans on behalf of political clients.

As expressed by ISBA: “The claims that other apps using the Facebook platform, and predating mid-2015, have collected similar bodies of personal data and that controls for distribution have been inadequate, raise questions about the possibility that Facebook data has been, or is being used improperly elsewhere.”

The chief executive of agency network M&C Saatchi also weighed in, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Facebook needs to radically reform its business.

“I think that clients have come to a point, quite rightly, where enough is enough,” he said, while adding that advertisers have the power to force change at Facebook.

“It is much more likely to be hard money from advertisers rather than consumers running hashtags on Twitter,” he said in reference to the #DeleteFacebook and #BoycottFacebook hashtag campaigns that have appeared on social media.

And when asked about the intervention of ISBA and The Times report that its members may pull their spending, he said: “I don’t think they’re bluffing. They are going to exert real pressure.”

Sourced from The Times, ISBA, BBC, CNN, Facebook; additional content by WARC staff