Senators press Facebook amid new questions on data-sharing practices

Senators press Facebook amid new questions on data-sharing practices
© Greg Nash

Senators are demanding more answers from Facebook over a new report revealing that the company shared user data with device makers.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP rattled by Trump rally GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator MORE (R-S.D.) on Monday said that his committee plans to send Facebook a letter seeking more information on the matter.

Thune said in a statement that the report “raises important questions about transparency and potential privacy risks.”

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Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator FTC looks to update children's internet privacy rules MORE (Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), two Democrats who sit on the Senate panel, sent their own letter Monday asking Facebook to explain its data-sharing partnerships with device makers like Apple and BlackBerry.

“We write seeking more information regarding Facebook’s data sharing policies and practices, Facebook’s security monitoring of device companies with user data access, and your previous statements on these topics before Congress,” the senators wrote.

The Democrats said that a New York Times report published Sunday calls Facebook’s credence on matters of data collection further into question.

“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 lawmakers pressed Facebook to explain how device makers are different from other third parties when it comes to sharing user data, what privacy requirements Facebook has imposed on device makers and what companies still have access to data shared with device makers.

Other lawmakers have voiced similar concerns about Facebook sharing user data.

On Sunday night, Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineDemocratic lawmaker calls asylum, refugee programs 'crown jewel' of immigration system House Democrat: Mueller testimony will help people 'understand the gravity' of Trump's conduct Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE (D-R.I.) accused the social media company of potentially lying about its data privacy practices.

Top House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrat Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE (N.J.) and a spokesperson for Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers 'highly toxic' to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting 'forever chemicals' | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker MORE (R-Ore.) also said they found the Times report troubling and were planning on examining the matter further.

Facebook’s partnerships allowed device makers to obtain user data such as relationship status, religion and political leanings, and also allowed for the sharing of data on users’ Facebook friends, according to the Times report.

The social media giant has reportedly started to end the partnerships but has not completely shuttered them with every company.

Facebook on Monday pushed back against the Times's story, writing in a post that partner companies “signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences.”

The social media company has already been in congressional crosshairs over privacy concerns, with lawmakers grilling CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Maxine Waters says her committee will call in Zuckerberg to testify about Libra Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE in April over how the firm Cambridge Analytica was able to obtain the data of 87 million Facebook users.