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State attorneys general investigating whether Facebook data practices broke the law

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. Facebook is under fire for allowing personal user data to fall into the hands of third parties. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Facebook is under fire for recent revelations about how they’ve shared users’ data with third-party organizations, and now Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is investigating whether the company broke the law, according to KDKA-TV.

“Businesses like Facebook must comply with the law when it comes to how they use their customers’ personal data,” Shapiro wrote. “State attorneys general have an important role to ply in holding them accountable.”

What’s the story?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologized and is dealing with the fallout for allegedly turning a blind eye while a Russian psychology professor obtained and distributed personal data on 50 million users in 2014.

That data was distributed to, among others, political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which consulted with the Trump campaign in 2016.

Shapiro, along with 26 other state attorneys general, sent a letter to Zuckerberg seeking more information about what happened and what Facebook plans to do about it.

“Pennsylvania residents using Facebook — and users across the country — deserve to know where their data is going, and what it is being used for,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Facebook needs to answer our questions so we can know if the company is upholding its end of the bargain with its customers.”

Against the law?

Shapiro is trying to determine whether Facebook broke the law with its handling of user data.

“With Facebook, they didn’t have to break in,” Shapiro said of those who got the data. “Facebook gave them the keys, and said come on in and take what you want, and use it for profit, use it for what you want. And that’s not something we are going to stand and tolerate.”

At the heart of the issue is what Facebook knew and when, and also what exactly users are consenting to when they agree to terms of service on the site.

“Facebook apparently contends that this incident of harvesting tens of millions of profiles was not the result of a technical data breach; however, the reports allege that Facebook gave away the personal data of users who never authorized these developers to obtain it, and relied on terms of service and settings that were confusing and perhaps misleading to its users,” the letter to Facebook read.

One last thing…
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