Rubio Wants Answers From Facebook For Sharing User Info With ‘High Risk’ Countries

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is putting Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat over the potential mishandling of Facebook’s user data. Newly released court documents indicate that hundreds of thousands of developers in “high-risk jurisdictions,” including China and Russia, were given extensive access to users’ personal information. The documents suggest that Facebook has been offering users’ data to “high-risk” individuals since at least 2018.

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Senators Rubio and Mark Warner, D-VA, sent a letter to Zuckerberg on Monday demanding answers,

“As the Chairman [Warner] and Vice Chairman [Rubio] of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we have grave concerns about the extent to which this access could have enabled foreign intelligence service activity, ranging from foreign malign influence to targeting and counter-intelligence activity.”

The documents, recently released as part of an ongoing lawsuit, revealed that Facebook had been disclosing profile data, user IDs, photos, contact information, and even the private messages of its users. The recipients included almost 90,000 developers from China, 42,000 from Russia, and several thousand from Iran and North Korea, among other countries Facebook deemed “high risk.”

The letter also indicated that Facebook was aware of the potential for abuse, with internal documents acknowledging that the jurisdictions “may be governed by potentially risky data storage and disclosure rules or be more likely to house malicious actors.” Facebook also acknowledged several of those jurisdictions included “states known to collect data for intelligence targeting and cyber espionage.”

“In light of these revelations, we request answers… on the findings of Facebook’s internal investigation.”

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According to the senators, the documents were released as part of a lawsuit concerning Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In 2018, Facebook was exposed for sharing the personal data of millions of its users without their consent. In December, the company paid $725 million to settle a class-action lawsuit relating to the scandal.

After the scandal, Facebook personnel met with the staff of both senators and the Senate Intel Committee to discuss its data policies. A statement from Rubio’s office claims that Facebook did not disclose any of this latest information at the time.

The senators also wrote a series of specific questions to Zuckerberg in the letter, demanding to know precisely what kind of information was shared with the developers and whether Facebook had conducted any security review before giving that information away.
“Thank you for your prompt attention,” they wrote after outlining over a dozen questions and requests.

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On Tuesday, a spokesman for Facebook’s parent company Meta told The Hill that they had made “substantive changes” to their data policy since the date of the internal documents. “Many years ago, we made substantive changes to our platform, shutting down developers’ access to key types of data on Facebook while reviewing and approving all apps that request access to sensitive information,” the spokesman said.

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