News that Cambridge Analytica harvested data from 50 million Facebook users raises "many serious questions concerning Facebook’s policies and practices," a group of 37 attorneys general says in a letter to the social networking service.
"As the chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we place a priority on protecting user privacy, which has been repeatedly placed at risk because of businesses’ failure to properly ensure those protections," the letter states. "We need to understand Facebook’s policies and procedures in light of the reported misuse of data by developers."
The law enforcement officials are asking Zuckerberg a host of questions about the company's practices, including whether its terms of service were "clear and understandable, or buried in boilerplate where few users would even read them."
They also want to know how Facebook monitored developers, and whether the company had any safeguards "to ensure developers were not misusing the Facebook user’s data."
The letter came the same day that the Federal Trade Commission took the unusual step of confirming that it had opened a "non-public" investigation into the company.
Also on Monday, lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they want Zuckerberg to testify at an upcoming hearing about data and privacy. That invitation comes on top of demands from the Senate Commerce Committee and House Commerce Committee for Zuckerberg's testimony.
The scrutiny stems from reports that President Trump's data consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, obtained personal data of 50 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica reportedly obtained the information from Alexsandr Kogan, a professor who collected the data in 2014 via his personality-quiz app "thisisyourdigitallife." That app was downloaded by 270,000 Facebook users, but Kogan was able to gather information about millions of those users' friends.
In April of 2015, Facebook stopped allowing developers to access data about users' friends. But in 2014, when Kogan's app scraped the data, Facebook allowed developers to glean information about users' friends, subject to their privacy settings. Facebook's terms of service prohibited developers from sharing that information.