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 ThuneRove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-S.D.), wrote in a joint letter with Sens. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Mobile providers at center of privacy storm The Memo: Trump moves to brink of emergency declaration MORE (R-Miss.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions 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 ZuckerbergThe free-market case for a clean slate Facebook takes down anti-NATO pages linked to Russia Congress needs to address consumer data privacy in a responsible and modern manner 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 MarkeyDems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Overnight Energy: Watchdog investigating EPA enforcement numbers | EPA's Wheeler faces Senate grilling | Interior's offshore drilling staff returning to work during shutdown EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharGrassley to hold drug pricing hearing Overnight Health Care: HHS chief refuses to testify on family separations | Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices | PhRMA spends record on lobbying in 2018 Senate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private MORE (D-Minn.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), have also pressed the companies on the matter.