Lawmakers are seeking answers from Facebook following a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that accuses Facebook of failing to protect users’ sensitive health data shared in its Groups.
According to the complaint, released publically this week, a group of women with a rare gene mutation discovered that their information, including names and email addresses, could be downloaded in bulk from a Facebook Group they all belonged to that was devoted to their condition. Facebook defended itself by saying that this did not constitute a privacy flaw, and users are free to join or create “secret” groups that are harder to discover.
However, now lawmakers on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce want to know if Facebook “misled” users about the data they give up when they join a Group.
“Despite the indications that the groups were private and anonymous, people and companies who should not have been admitted to these groups gained access to them and to lists of group members,” the committee members wrote in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg. “People used the member lists and other information from these groups to target and harass members of the groups.”
This swipe at Facebook from Capitol Hill is just the latest in a long string, and it won’t be the last. And while Facebook has already closed the loophole that allowed this to happen, it’s still a good thing for the social media giant to be held publically accountable.
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