A legal backlash against Facebook’s latest controversy is starting to gain momentum. Lawmakers from around the country are calling for investigations into Facebook after the company revealed that the data of 50 million platform users had leaked through a third-party app.
Both New York and Massachusetts attorneys general on Tuesday sent out a letter demanding Facebook hand over more details about how it handled and restricted improper access to platform user data.
“Today, along with Massachusetts Attorney General Healey, we sent a demand letter to Facebook – the first step in our joint investigation to get to the bottom of what happened,” according to a statement by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “”Consumers have a right to know how their information is used – and companies like Facebook have a fundamental responsibility to protect their users’ personal information.”
Facebook’s intensifying crisis started last week after the company acknowledged that since 2015 a third party application had handed over the data of up to 50 million platform users to Cambridge Analytica – a consulting group that has worked on several high-profile political campaigns, including that of President Donald Trump’s.
The scandal has led to a call to action from political figures to hold social media platforms accountable for policies around data security and management. Schneiderman said in a Tweet Tuesday that the letter is the first step in the joint investigation to “get to the bottom of what happening, saying in a follow up tweet that “New Yorkers deserve answers, and if any company or individual violated the law, we will hold them accountable.”
Today, @MassAGO Healey and I sent a letter to Facebook demanding more information regarding Cambridge Analytica.
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) March 20, 2018
Maura Healey echoed Schneiderman’s statement in a Tweet on Tuesday, saying that Massachusetts is looking to find out how and why data was shared by Facebook – and whether the social media platform took appropriate steps in handling data misuse.
We are investigating to find out how and why this data was shared by Facebook and whether the appropriate steps were taken to protect it from misuse. https://t.co/zwUWEmvBpp
— Maura Healey (@MassAGO) March 20, 2018
Facebook, for its part, adamantly says that users were knowingly providing their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked: “The claim that this is a data breach is completely false,” the company said in a statement. “Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent.”
Despite the company’s defense, Facebook’s security chief, Alex Stamos is reportedly planning to step down from the company in August, after he was met with resistance when advocating for more disclosure around Russian manipulation of the platform and some restructuring to better address related issues.
Meanwhile, public backlash against the company continues, with Brian Acton – who co-founded the company WhatsApp, sold to Facebook in 2014 for $16 billion – telling his followers on Twitter to delete Facebook.
Other politicians from the US Senate also weighed in on the Facebook incident, including vice chairman of the Intel Committee and Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who called for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress in a Tweet, citing Facebook’s part in disinformation, fake news and “media manipulation” in the 2016 election.
It's time for Mr. Zuckerberg and the other CEOs to testify before Congress. The American people deserve answers about social media manipulation in the 2016 election.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) March 20, 2018
Minnesota US senator Amy Klobucher also sent out a letter along with Louisiana Senator John Kennedy calling for Zuckerberg to testify in a judiciary hearing. Kennedy , for his part, said in a tweet that Facebook’s “behavior lately has been getting into the foothills of creepy.”
Facebook is no longer just a company; it’s so powerful it should be considered its own country. It’s behavior lately has been getting into the foothills of creepy. pic.twitter.com/TNN7NevQ6s
— John Kennedy (@SenJohnKennedy) March 20, 2018
Meanwhile the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is reportedly probing Facebook over whether it violated terms of a 2011 consent decree over its use of personal data.
Moving forward, Morten Brøgger, CEO of Wire, told Threatpost that the Facebook incident will have a “lasting impact on businesses and organizations” when it comes to data privacy.
“This is really only the beginning in what I hope is a monumental shift in how organizations manage personal data moving forward,” he said. “It was only a matter of time before an incident of this magnitude occurred and Facebook and Cambridge Analytica will be used as a poster child of what not to do moving forward. It’s also up to the individuals to be diligent about which businesses they trust with their information…so this does not happen again.”