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Senators demand answers from Facebook about user privacy

Posted On: Jun. 5, 2018 10:50 AM CST

Senators demand answers from Facebook about user privacy

(Reuters) — The Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee and the top Democrat on the panel Tuesday demanded that Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg answer questions about whether user privacy was compromised by information disclosed to at least 60 device manufacturers.

Senators John Thune, a Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat, wrote to Mr. Zuckerberg after The New York Times reported that manufacturers were able to access user friends’ data even if the friends denied permission to share their data with third parties.

The letter asks if Facebook audited partnerships with the device manufacturers under a 2011 consent order with the Federal Trade Commission. It also asked if Mr. Zuckerberg wanted to revise his testimony before the Senate in April.

Facebook said it looks forward to addressing any questions the Commerce Committee has.

Facebook still has not answered hundreds of written questions submitted from members of Congress after Mr. Zuckerberg's testimony in April, according to congressional staff.

The Federal Trade Commission confirmed in March that it was investigating Facebook's privacy practices.

Facebook allowed Apple Inc. and other device makers to have "deep" access to users' personal data without their consent, according to the Times.

The Times said Facebook allowed companies access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent, even after it had declared it would no longer share the information with outsiders.

Ime Archibong, vice president of product partnerships, said the data was only shared with device makers in order to improve Facebook users' access to the information. "These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences."

Regulators and authorities in several countries have increased scrutiny of Facebook after it failed to protect the data of some 87 million users that was shared with now-defunct political data firm Cambridge Analytica Ltd.

Two Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee, Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal, on Monday also wrote to Mr. Zuckerberg.

"New revelations that Facebook provided access to users' personal information, including religion, political preferences, and relationship status, to dozens of mobile device manufacturers without users' explicit consent are deeply concerning," they said in a letter.

Mr. Archibong said the cases were "very different" from the use of data by third-party developers in the Cambridge row.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said on Monday the "data-sharing’ partnerships with other corporations" is part of the ongoing investigation into the reported misuse of Facebook user data by Cambridge Analytica.