Senate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytica for answers on data

Senate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytica for answers on data
© Greg Nash

The Senate Commerce Committee is pushing Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to answer questions about their dealings with one another, following controversy over data the firm allegedly took from 50 million Facebook accounts.

“We appreciate that Facebook has recently taken steps to address this situation. Nevertheless, the possibility that Facebook has either not been transparent with consumers or has not been able to verify that third-party app developers are transparent with consumers is troubling,” Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThere is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future Biden's year two won't be about bipartisanship  MORE (R-S.D.), wrote in a joint letter with Sens. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOn The Money — Support for new COVID-19 relief grows Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks Momentum builds for new COVID-19 relief for businesses MORE (R-Miss.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs MORE (R-Kan.), who chair Commerce subcommittees.

The letter comes after Facebook announced it would suspend Cambridge Analytica from its platform.

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The three pressed Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergHillicon Valley — States probe the tech giants Executives personally signed off on Facebook-Google ad collusion plot, states claim States push forward with Facebook antitrust case, reportedly probe VR unit MORE to provide more answers on the types of information that Cambridge Analytica was able to acquire from it, if the company is aware of other similar abuses of its platform and if it will notify any of the 50 million users whose data was taken by the British firm.

The lawmakers asked if it agreed with Facebook’s characterization of its actions in a separate letter to Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) — the British parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica has challenged Facebook’s assertion on the data. In a statement, it said that it had not "knowingly breached any of Facebook's terms of service and also provided a signed statement to confirm that all Facebook data and their derivatives had been deleted."  

The lawmakers also questioned if SCL has shared the Facebook data it obtained with other companies.

Observers have questioned what Cambridge Analytica did with the data, specifically focusing on if it was distributed to either the Trump campaign or Russia. The firm has denied giving the Facebook data to both entities.

Commerce leadership are latest lawmakers to weigh in on the issue. A bevy of legislators, including Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden comments add momentum to spending bill's climate measures  Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Overnight Health Care — White House boosts mask availability MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Wicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum MORE (D-Minn.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyLouisiana Democrat running for US Senate smokes marijuana in campaign ad MORE (R-La.), have also pressed the companies on the matter.