Commerce panel leaders demand answers from Facebook over data sharing

Commerce panel leaders demand answers from Facebook over data sharing
© Greg Nash

The Republican chairman and top-ranking Democrat of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee are demanding more answers from Facebook about data privacy in regard a recent report on its partnerships with device makers such as Apple, Samsung and Blackberry.

Sens. 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.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonPolitical shenanigans mask true problems in Puerto Rico The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms MORE (D-Fla.) sent Facebook a series of questions pressing it on areas such as how it ensures compliance on user data including relationship status, religion and political leanings, and how it notified users that such information would be shared with hardware manufacturers.

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 Two other Senate Commerce members, 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.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), sent a separate letter on Monday. The pair sought more information from Facebook over its data-sharing partnerships, which they called “deeply concerning" following a New York Times report over the weekend detailing the practices.

“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 data-sharing partnerships raise questions as to whether Facebook violated an agreement it made with the FTC that it would not override users privacy settings without first getting their consent.

The FTC is already investigating Facebook over whether it violated this consent decree following revelations of how it handled user data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Other senators have noted their concerns as well. On Tuesday, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (Va.) said he was concerned of the possibility that Chinese companies were included in the data sharing partnerships.

Facebook has defended its practices.

“These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences,” Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, wrote on Monday in a response to The New York Times story.