Facebook Missed Another Senate Deadline on Privacy Questions

June 19, 2018, 5:23 PM UTC

Facebook Inc. missed a deadline to respond to questions from two top U.S. senators on its sharing of user data with device makers, the latest delay by the social network in addressing lawmakers’ queries about its privacy lapses.

Senators John Thune and Bill Nelson, respectively the Republican chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, asked the company in a June 5 letter to answer five questions on data sharing with telecom companies by the end of the business on Monday. The company told the committee it would not meet the requested response date, panel spokesman Frederick Hill said Tuesday.

Facebook has said it needed to share the information to power versions of its service that were common before it deployed formal phone apps, and that the data was largely stored on the phones that accessed it. Still, the agreements prompted criticism from Congress in light of the inclusion of Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies Co. in the partnerships, as well as earlier revelations that consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested information from as many as 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

In the letter to Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Thune and Nelson asked whether he should amend his April testimony to the panel on Cambridge Analytica, in which he focused on user data but didn’t mention the partnerships with device makers. The lawmakers also asked how shared data is stored and whether users or the Federal Trade Commission, which has a 2011 privacy settlement with the company, were ever aware of the agreements.

For more, read here: Understanding the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Story: QuickTake

In earlier statements, Facebook said it wasn’t aware of people’s information being misused by device manufacturers, and that it was already in the process of winding down the relationships. The company said it needed to work with Huawei because its phones are popular.

“These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences,” the company has said. “And we approved each and every one of the Facebook experiences they built.”

This isn’t the first congressional deadline Facebook has missed. On June 6, Thune said the company was late in responding to many questions it received during and after Zuckerberg’s April testimony. Facebook’s answers to those queries were made public June 11.

The company must also provide more than 700 responses to questions from Zuckerberg’s testimony to the House Energy & Commerce Committee by June 29, according to a spokeswoman for the committee. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asked for answers by June 22 to questions about the partnerships with phone makers and whether Facebook receives data on non-users from devices.

A subcommittee of the Senate Commerce panel is also scheduled to hear testimony on Tuesday from Aleksander Kogan, the researcher who reportedly shared Facebook user data with Cambridge Analytica.