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Attorney General Racine Joins Bipartisan Coalition Seeking Information on Facebook Business Practices

April 10, 2018

Attorney General Karl A. Racine joined a bipartisan coalition of 37 state and territorial attorneys general in sending a letter demanding answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s business practices and privacy protections.

“Thousands of District residents log on to Facebook every day to connect with friends, family, and neighbors, and they should not have to worry that their personal information is being harvested for unauthorized purposes,” said Attorney General Racine. “I’m proud to join a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in demanding answers from Facebook to protect consumers and the privacy of their accounts.”

As the attorneys general write in their letter to 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, initiated by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, raises a series of questions about the social networking site’s policies and practices, including:

  • Were the 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 affected?
  • 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 letter was led by Attorneys General Shapiro (D-Pennsyvania), Tim Fox (R-Montana), Ellen Rosenblum (D-Oregon), Marty Jackley (R-South Dakota) and George Jepsen (D-Connecticut).

In addition to Attorney General Racine, the letter was signed by attorneys general from Alabama, American Samoa, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

To view a copy of the letter and the full list of signatories, please click here.