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State AGs Have Questions for Facebook’s Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2007.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2007. Paul Sakuma / AP Photo

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And they expect the social network CEO’s ‘full cooperation’ while they ensure the consumer privacy of users.

Attorneys general from 37 states and territories sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter Monday questioning the social network’s handling of users’ personal data.

New York and Massachusetts announced a joint investigation last week into Cambridge Analytica—a data firm suspected of harvesting about 50 million Americans’ Facebook information in order to influence the 2016 election in President Trump’s favor. New Jersey followed suit.

The attorneys general took issue with Facebook’s perceived failure to obtain users’ consent before providing their data to third parties via quizzes, and they emphasized their consumer protection role including privacy:

”These revelations raise many serious questions concerning Facebook’s policies and practices, and the processes in place to ensure they are followed. Were those terms of service clear and understandable, or buried in boilerplate where few users would even read them? How did Facebook monitor what these developers did with all the data that they collected? What type of controls did Facebook have over the data given to developers? Did Facebook have protective safeguards in place, including audits, to ensure developers were not misusing the Facebook user’s data? How many users in our respective states were impacted? When did Facebook learn of this breach of privacy protections? During this timeframe, what other third party “research” applications were also able to access the data of unsuspecting Facebook users?”

The attorneys general further sought an update on changes Facebook will undertake to allow users to more easily control account privacy, pointing to reports the social network allowed developers access to the data of app users’ friends while taking as much as 30 percent of payments through those apps on its platform.

Technical breach or not, the attorneys general expect Facebook’s “full cooperation” with their inquiries.

“Facebook has made promises about users’ privacy in the past, and we need to know that users can trust Facebook,” reads their letter. “With the information we have now, our trust has been broken.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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