(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Missouri's Republican attorney general is launching a wide-ranging probe into Facebook Inc's use of personal data.
In a civil investigative demand dated yesterday, Missouri's Josh Hawley is asking Facebook to disclose every time it's shared user information with a political campaign or political action committee, how much those campaigns paid Facebook for such data, and whether users were notified.
The action comes on the heels of revelations about how Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm associated with Donald Trump's presidential campaign, gained access to the personal data of about 50mn Facebook users. Missouri's probe is one of a handful of similar actions by state and federal officials. In March, Hawley signed onto a letter from state attorneys general requesting information about Facebook's policies and practices for protecting consumer data.
Facebook chief executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is slated to testify before Congress in the coming weeks, and has been requested to appear before a parliamentary committee in London and elsewhere in Europe as well.
In his own investigation, Hawley is demanding a timeline of Facebook's interaction with Cambridge Analytica and Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who collected information through a Facebook quiz and shared it with the firm.
Hawley, 38, who's running an aggressively partisan Senate campaign against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, is also zeroing in on former President Barack Obama's use of Facebook data when he ran for re-election in 2012.
Hawley wants to see all communications, documents and evidence about meetings Facebook had with Obama's campaign. He's specifically asking for all communications with Carol Davidsen, the campaign's director of digital integration and media analytics.
Obama's use of data during the 2012 campaign was largely seen as innovative and drew little negative attention at the time, but the revelations around Cambridge Analytica's use of Facebook data has inspired a re-examination. Davidsen recently said on Twitter that Obama's campaign didn't break any rules, while acknowledging that some of what it did 'felt creepy. Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager, said the operation was upfront about how it was collecting data, while Cambridge Analytica wasn't. 'Conflating these two cases is misleading, he said on Twitter.
Hawley's investigation will examine whether Facebook was involved in deception, fraud or false promises, in violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, a state-level consumer protection law. It asks for information about how many Facebook users in Missouri were included in the 50mn people that Kogan gathered data on, as well as whether any Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers, or other sensitive data was exposed. The deadline to produce the information is May 29.
'As the chief law enforcement officer in the state, I will pursue those who mishandle the private information of Missourians, Hawley said in a statement.
Zuckerberg says it will take ‘a few years' to fix Facebook
Facebook Inc chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said it will take 'a few years to solve the issues plaguing the social media company.
'I wish I could solve all these issues in three months or six months, but I just think the reality is that solving some of these questions is just going to take a longer period of time, he said in a podcast interview with media publication Vox.
The company started investing more in security at least a year ago, Zuckerberg said,'so if this is going to be a three-year process, then I think we're about a year in already. Hopefully by the end of this year, we'll have really started to turn the corner on some of these issues.
Zuckerberg is trying to steer Facebook through one of its worst public crises, after revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that worked on President Donald Trump's election campaign, obtained the private data of some 50mn Facebook users. Facebook's shares have dropped about 14% since the news emerged and Zuckerberg has been called to testify before Congress in coming weeks. Politicians in the UK and the European Union have also requested Zuckerberg to come explain how Facebook protects the privacy of its 2bn monthly users.
Facebook shares were down 1.4% in premarket trading in New York to $157.50.
In the Vox interview, Zuckerberg defended Facebook's advertising-driven business model, saying that it wasn't incompatible with serving people. He argues that building a service that connects people everywhere has to be available to everyone, and not all people would be able to pay otherwise.
'I don't think at all that means that we don't care about people, Zuckerberg said. 'I think to the contrary.
Before the Cambridge Analytica revelations, Facebook was already under heightened scrutiny, along with other social media companies, for failing to crack down on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Zuckerberg said working on foreign intervention was going to be a 'huge focus for us going forward. Facebook has about 14,000 people working on security and community operations, he said.
This year will be a 'big year for us for elections around the world, he said, including midterm elections in the US, India, Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere.
In the interview, Zuckerberg also responded to criticism from Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook about the company's business model. Zuckerberg described Cook's assessment that Apple has a more solid model because it sells products to users, rather than selling users to advertisers, as 'extremely glib, and not at all aligned with the truth.