Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has launched an investigation into Facebook’s sharing and tracking of personal information of its users. At a press conference on Monday in Jefferson City, Hawley says the probe includes whether Facebook’s mobile app, while being used on Android phones, collects and stores extraordinary amounts of details about consumers’ cell phone usage without their permission and gives that information away. Missouri has joined 36 other states in requesting answers from Facebook about its business practices.
“There are allegations that third parties have not just used information on the profile that you or other consumers have posted, but they’ve been able through Facebook to gain access to things like phone records, text messaging and web pages visited,” Hawley says.
He goes on to say that Facebook tracks what pages users visit, what links they click on in the app, what messages are seen or sent, all contacts in users’ phones, what things they might be interested in based off what they like, all the applications they’ve linked to, files downloaded by consumers and more.
Hawley says news reports reveal that at least 50 million Facebook profiles might have been shared with third parties – prompting him to issue subpoenas to the social media giant. Hawley wants to know if the company has broken state regulations involving deceptive and unfair business practices. If violations are found, the company faces a variety of fines and other hefty penalties.
“People all over Missouri, put their lives on their profiles with the expectation that they are sharing this information with people they choose to connect to, not with unknown, random third parties,” he says. “Somewhere along the way though, while we built our personal profiles to share with our friends and family, Facebook built a profile on us, a profile that they have reportedly shared with third parties who want to make a profit, earn a vote or somehow persuade us to make a decision that may be in their best interest but not necessarily in ours,” Hawley says.
Business news company Bloomberg reports that Hawley is asking Facebook to disclose every time it’s shared user information with a political campaign or political action committee, how much those campaigns paid Facebook for such data, and whether users were notified.
He has also reportedly requested information about Facebook’s interaction with British political data mining firm Cambridge Analytica. The business is being investigated for the alleged misuse of data to try to influence America’s 2016 presidential race.
Hawley also wants to see all communications, documents and evidence about meetings Facebook had with former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. He points to reports that the company voluntarily gave the campaign access to user data.
Hawley, a Republican frontrunner in the U.S. Senate race to try and unseat Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, has also launched recent investigations targeting major tech companies like Google, Equifax and Uber.