The top law enforcement officials in 34 states have signed onto a letter grilling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with seven questions about what he knew and when about the massive Cambridge Analytica scandal that was revealed by journalists earlier this month.
The letter lays it out like so:
Early reports indicate that user data of at least 50 million Facebook profiles may have been misused and misappropriated by third-party software developers. According to these reports, Facebook’s previous policies allowed developers to access the personal data of “friends” of people who used applications on the platform, without the knowledge or express consent of those “friends.” It has also been reported that while providing other developers access to personal Facebook user data, Facebook took as much as thirty (30) percent of payments made through the developers’ applications by Facebook users.
Then, then it hits Zuckerberg with seven queries that are colloquially known as “cop questions.”
1. Were those terms of service clear and understandable, or buried in boilerplate where few users would even read them?
2. How did Facebook monitor what these developers did with all the data that they collected?
3. What type of controls did Facebook have over the data given to developers?
4. Did Facebook have protective safeguards in place, including audits, to ensure developers were not misusing the Facebook user’s data?
5. How many users in our respective states were impacted?
6. When did Facebook learn of this breach of privacy protections?
7. During this timeframe, what other third party “research” applications were also able to access the data of unsuspecting Facebook users?
Any good cop — or just a curious citizen — could find the answers to many of those questions already, as they’ve been surfaced in news reports. But reading newspaper reports about their own alleged negligence and answering questions to what amounts to the police about it are two very different things. Zuckerberg has also said he’s “happy” to testify before Congress if he was the right person for it.
The fact that Facebook threatened to sue The Guardian — the British newspaper that interviewed Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie — doesn’t look so good in retrospect, admitted Cambell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships. A few lawsuits have been filed the other way since the news broke. On Monday, a Houston man filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook and on Friday, attorneys for Cook County in Illinois brought a suit against Facebook on behalf of people in Chicago.
Here’s the full list of the 34 states whose attorneys general signed the letter: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
The attorneys general in 16 states didn’t sign the letter. Those states are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Viewed through a political lens, all of those states with the exception of Nevada went for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Also signing the letter were the attorneys general for these U.S. districts and territories: American Samoa, Washington, D.C., and Guam.
Here’s the full letter: