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 ThuneGoogle says it continues to allow apps to access Gmail user data Fight looms over national privacy law Want to improve health care? Get Americans off of their couches MORE (R-S.D.), wrote in a joint letter with Sens. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGoogle says it continues to allow apps to access Gmail user data Trump cancels Mississippi rally due to hurricane Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Miss.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranGoogle says it continues to allow apps to access Gmail user data McConnell: Sessions should stay as attorney general Tougher Russia sanctions face skepticism from Senate Republicans 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 Elliot ZuckerbergFight looms over national privacy law Facebook teaming with nonprofits to fight fake election news China may be copying Facebook to build an intelligence weapon 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 MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls GOP in striking distance to retake Franken seat MORE (D-Minn.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), have also pressed the companies on the matter.