Technology

Cuomo directs NY agencies to investigate Facebook over report of secret acquisition of private data

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Friday that he would direct two state agencies to convene an investigation into Facebook's data practices after it was reported that the company received private medical information from several popular apps without users' knowledge or consent.

In a statement Friday afternoon, the governor said that if a Wall Street Journal report that the company receives sensitive data about users such as their blood pressure and timing of their menstrual cycle without consent, the practice would clearly violate Facebook's own stated business practices.

"The recent report that Facebook is accessing far more personal information of smartphone users than previously reported, including health and other sensitive data, represents an invasion of privacy and breach of consumer trust," Cuomo said.

"According to the report, a wide range of apps are sending highly personal data to the social media giant apparently without users' consent and even when users are not logged in through Facebook. This practice, which in some cases clearly violates Facebook's own business terms, is an outrageous abuse of privacy," the governor added.

The state's Department of Financial Services and Department of State will lead an investigation into the reports, Cuomo said, while calling on federal authorities to investigate the matter as well.

"I also call on relevant federal regulators to step up and help us put an end to this practice and protect the rights of consumers," he said.

Facebook said on Friday that some of the instances uncovered by the Journal violated the site's terms of service, and that the company would direct some apps to stop sharing sensitive data. Other instances, the company asserted, represented standard industry practice.

"Sharing information across apps on your iPhone or Android device is how mobile advertising works and is industry standard practice," a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill.

"The issue is how apps use information for online advertising. We require app developers to be clear with their users about the information they are sharing with us, and we prohibit app developers from sending us sensitive data. We also take steps to detect and remove data that should not be shared with us," the spokesperson added.

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