US senators ask Meta for answers on whether user data has been accessed by China, Russia and others


Top U.S. lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee want answers from Meta on a recently disclosed internal investigation it conducted in 2018 that found tens of thousands of software developers in China, Russia and other other “high-risk” countries may have had access to detailed information about Facebook users. data before the company reduced this access from 2014.

In a letter Monday to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the senses. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate committee, cited an unsealed document last week in an ongoing privacy lawsuit involving the company.

This document, an internal slide presentation from 2018, suggested that nearly 87,000 developers in China, 42,000 in Russia and a handful based in Cuba, Iran and North Korea had access to Facebook user information through a version legacy of enterprise programming interfaces. The presentation provides an interim update on the investigation, which found, among other things, that Iran was home to a “significant number of apparently Russian developers” of Facebook apps.

The document does not explicitly describe the types of information the developers could have accessed, but it focuses on a period before 2014, before Facebook restricted third-party access to data such as political opinions, relationship statuses and education history, among others. .

The congressional letter asks for more information about the results of the investigation, with a particular focus on whether Facebook user data could have ended up in the hands of Chinese or Russian intelligence agencies.

“We have serious concerns about the extent to which this access could have enabled foreign intelligence activity, ranging from malign foreign influence to targeting and counterintelligence activities,” the lawmakers wrote.

The results are “particularly remarkable given that Facebook was never allowed to operate in [China]“, they added.

Meta’s investigation, launched after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, had focused on third-party app developers with access to “large amounts of information” and whose software had shown “activity suspicious”.

On Tuesday, Meta told CNN in a statement that the document cited in the letter referred to data practices that are no longer in effect at the company.

“These documents are an artifact of a different product at a different time,” Meta spokesman Andy Stone said. “Many years ago, we made substantial changes to our platform, closing developer access to major types of data on Facebook while reviewing and approving all apps that request access to information. sensitive.”

Meta declined to say whether the app developer’s investigation is still ongoing or how many apps have been reviewed since the 2018 slide presentation, which was unveiled in court last week. The document provided that the investigation would continue until at least 2020.

In recent years, policymakers have increasingly sounded the alarm about data leaks to foreign adversaries. Hostile governments could seek to use Americans’ personal information to spread disinformation or identify intelligence targets, U.S. officials said.

Those fears culminated most visibly in tensions with the short-form video app TikTok, whose ties to China through its parent company prompted the US government and many states to ban the app from official devices. US officials have also sought to block Chinese telecom companies from the US market over similar concerns.

But the lawmakers’ letter underscores how concerns about data access by foreign adversaries extend beyond TikTok and encompass some of the biggest social media platforms.

Although Meta has evolved with different and more restrictive policies for developers, Warner and Rubio asked the company to explain what information might have been transferred to China, Russia and other countries in the past, and for any evidence the company may have that the data has been abused to target Americans or engage in propaganda campaigns.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button