NY Attorney General Opens Investigation Into Facebook Data Harvesting

The New York Attorney General’s office announced last week that it will open an investigation into Facebook’s unauthorized collection of 1.5 million users’ email contacts — a move the tech giant made without obtaining user permission.

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

The problem started in spring 2016, when Facebook began to gather users’ contact information automatically while they signed up. Previously, the company had to receive user consent before doing so. For its part, Facebook said that this massive data scraping was an “unintentional” consequence of its sign-up process, and the company acted quickly to shut it down once it was discovered.

But the New York Attorney General is not convinced. According to James, Facebook’s shoddy data practices led to it “potentially gaining access to contact information for hundreds of millions of individual consumers without their knowledge, is the latest demonstration that Facebook does not take seriously its role in protecting our personal information.”

It’s only one case, but strong statements like this from government officials prove that Facebook’s days of getting away with its careless data practices may be over.

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