Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today joined a bipartisan coalition of 37 state and territory Attorneys General in sending a letter demanding answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company's business practices and privacy protections.
"The revelation that tens of millions of American consumers' data was harvested from Facebook by Cambridge Analytica is extremely troubling, and we deserve answers as to how it happened and how we can be assured it will never happen again," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Social media platforms have transformed how people interact, but in no way is that justification for those companies to abuse the trust of its users by sharing personal information without explicit permission. I trust Facebook will fully cooperate with our request for information as company executives have publicly stated they will."
As the Attorneys General write in their letter to CEO Zuckerberg, news reports indicate the data of at least 50 million Facebook profiles may have been misused by third-party software developers. Facebook's policies allowed developers to access the personal data of "friends" of people who used certain applications – without the knowledge or consent of these users.
The letter to Zuckerberg, signed by a bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General, raises a series of questions about the social networking site's policies and practices, including:
• Were those terms of service clear and understandable? • 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 the states of the signatory Attorneys General 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 write in the letter: "Facebook apparently contends that this incident of harvesting tens of millions of profiles was not the result of a technical data breach; however, the reports allege that Facebook gave away the personal data of users who never authorized these developers to obtain it, and relied on terms of service and settings that were confusing and perhaps misleading to its users."
The coalition expects Facebook's full cooperation, an accounting of what transpired and answers to the multiple questions raised in its letter."