Commerce panel leaders demand answers from Facebook over data sharing

Commerce panel leaders demand answers from Facebook over data sharing
© Greg Nash

The Republican chairman and top-ranking Democrat of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee are demanding more answers from Facebook about data privacy in regard a recent report on its partnerships with device makers such as Apple, Samsung and Blackberry.

Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk MORE (R-S.D.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Senate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference MORE (D-Fla.) sent Facebook a series of questions pressing it on areas such as how it ensures compliance on user data including relationship status, religion and political leanings, and how it notified users that such information would be shared with hardware manufacturers.

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 Two other Senate Commerce members, Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns Hillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger MORE (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), sent a separate letter on Monday. The pair sought more information from Facebook over its data-sharing partnerships, which they called “deeply concerning" following a New York Times report over the weekend detailing the practices.

“These reports further add to Facebook’s track record of opacity around privacy practices and call into question whether Facebook violated its 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC),” they wrote.

The data-sharing partnerships raise questions as to whether Facebook violated an agreement it made with the FTC that it would not override users privacy settings without first getting their consent.

The FTC is already investigating Facebook over whether it violated this consent decree following revelations of how it handled user data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Other senators have noted their concerns as well. On Tuesday, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Overnight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback MORE (Va.) said he was concerned of the possibility that Chinese companies were included in the data sharing partnerships.

Facebook has defended its practices.

“These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences,” Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, wrote on Monday in a response to The New York Times story.