NY State Investigates Facebook Over Email Data

New York Attorney General Letitia James just announced an investigation into Facebook over its collection of users’ email contact data without their permission.

Earlier this month, Business Insider broke the news that Facebook had obtained and uploaded email contacts of 1.5 million unsuspecting users.

Yet, New York’s attorney general is suggesting that the total number of consumers whose information was improperly obtained may be in the hundreds of millions.

“It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers' personal information,” stated Attorney General James. “Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers’ information, while at the same time profiting from mining that data.”

For its part, Facebook has said the contact-scraping was unintentional. “These contacts were not shared with anyone, and we're deleting them,” the company stated earlier this month. “We’ve fixed the underlying issue and are notifying people whose contacts were imported.”

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This is not the first time the office of New York’s Attorney General has set its sights on a West Coast tech titan, this year.

In January, Attorney General James announced an investigation into Apple over its failure to warn consumers about a FaceTime bug. The bug in question was believed to have jeopardized the privacy of consumers by allowing them to receive audio and video from the device of the person they were calling, even before they accepted or rejected a call.

In March 2018, the Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Facebook over its reported misuse of user data with Cambridge Analytica. 

Facebook is reeling from a serious of privacy mishaps, which now seem certain to impact its bottom line. Indeed, the social giant said this week it expects to be fined billions of dollars by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC has been investigating Facebook since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted last year. Of particular interest to the FTC is whether the company violated a 2011 agreement it made regarding the sharing of user data.

In response to the inquiry, Facebook has taken a $3 billion charge; it is estimating the fine could approach $5 billion.

“The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome,” Facebook noted in a first-quarter earnings release.

On the bright side, Facebook’s quarterly earnings and user growth both beat analyst expectations. During the first quarter, the company boasted just over $15 billion in revenue, which was up about 25% year-over-year.
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