Senators press Zuckerberg over risk from Facebook developers in China, Russia
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) pressed Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg over documents showing that developers in “high-risk” countries such as China and Russia have access to users’ data.
In a letter sent on Monday, the senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee cited new evidence, released as part of litigation, showing that Facebook was aware that tens of thousands of developers based in Iran, North Korea, China and Russia have access to user information.
“As Facebook’s own internal materials note, those jurisdictions ‘may be governed by potentially risky data storage and disclosure rules or be more likely to house malicious actors,’ including ‘states known to collect data for intelligence targeting and cyber espionage,'” the senators wrote in their letter.
“As the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we have grave concerns about the extent to which this access could have enabled foreign intelligence service activity, ranging from foreign malign influence to targeting and counter-intelligence activity,” they wrote.
The lawmakers said the documents were released as a part of ongoing litigation involving Facebook’s handling of users’ personal data in connection with Cambridge Analytica. Facebook agreed in December to pay $725 million to settle the class-action lawsuit in that case.
The senators asked Zuckerberg to respond to a series of questions and requests, including providing a full list of the types of information the developers had access to, the timeframes associated with that access and whether the company has “any indication that any developers’ access enabled coordinated inauthentic activity, targeting activity or any other malign behavior by foreign governments.”
The letter notes that senators also made similar inquiries following a New York Times report in 2018 on how Facebook gave Chinese-based developers access to users’ profile data, user IDs, photos, contact information and private messages.
“Given those discussions, we were startled to learn recently, as a result of this ongoing litigation and discovery, that Facebook had concluded that a much wider range of foreign based developers, in addition to the [China]-based device-makers, also had access to this data,” the senators wrote.
In a statement Tuesday, a Meta spokesperson told The Hill the documents that senators noted in their letter are “from a different product at a different time,” saying that the company has made “substantive changes” since then.
“Many years ago, we made substantive changes to our platform, shutting down developers’ access to key types of data on Facebook while reviewing and approving all apps that request access to sensitive information,” they said.
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