Senators demand answers from Facebook on paying teens for data

A bipartisan trio of senators is demanding answers from Facebook about its practice of paying teenagers and young adults for access to their mobile phone and browsing data.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections MORE (D-Mass.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyGovernment regulation of social media would kill the internet — and free speech Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech Twitter unlocks McConnell's campaign account after GOP boycott MORE (R-Mo.) sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach Social media never intended to be in the news business — but just wait till AI takes over Facebook exploring deals with media outlets for news section: report MORE on Thursday expressing concern about privacy implications of the program, known as Project Atlas.

“These reports fit with longstanding concerns that Facebook has used its products to deeply intrude into personal privacy,” the senators wrote.

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The program was revealed last week by TechCrunch, which reported that Facebook had been using the data collected on users as young as 13 in order to determine market trends. The users were offered up to $20 per month for total access to their usage data.

Asked for comment about the letter on Thursday, a Facebook spokesperson provided an earlier statement about the program.

“This is a Facebook research app - it's very clear to the people participating that it's completely opt in, they go through a rigorous consent flow and people are compensated,” the statement says. “That said, we know we have work to do to make sure people's data is protected. It's your information and you put it on Facebook so you need to know what's happening. We continue to focus on this work.”

The senators also sent letters to Google and Apple inquiring about their app store policies. After Project Atlas and a similar Google app were revealed, Apple revoked both companies’ permission to operate internal employee apps on its iOS platform.

The lawmakers asked for responses to their lists of questions by March 1.