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Facebook Privacy Breach To Be Probed By New York Attorney General

New York Attorney General Letitita James.
New York Attorney General Letitita James. Photo Credit: AG Letitita James

Facebook isn’t getting any new likes from New York Attorney General Letitia James.

James announced on Thursday, April 25 that her office was launching an investigation into Facebook’s unauthorized collection of 1.5 million Facebook users’ email contact databases.

According to James, “while Facebook claims that 1.5 million contact databases were directly harvested by its email password verification process for new users, the total number of people whose information was improperly obtained may be hundreds of millions.”

“It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers' personal information,” she said. “Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers’ information while at the same time profiting from mining that data. Facebook’s announcement that it harvested 1.5 million users’ email address books, 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.”

The announcement comes just days after Facebook earmarked billions of dollars in anticipation of an investigation of a Federal Trade Commission investigation over the protection of users’ privacy on the site.

James said that “typically when a consumer signs up to a new online service, they are asked to provide an email address, where they then receive an email with a link to verify that the email account belongs to them.

"Facebook's procedure requested certain users to hand over their password to their personal email account. Additionally, reports indicate that Facebook proceeded to access those user’s contacts and upload all of those contacts to Facebook to be used for targeted advertising.

“While Facebook has admitted that 1.5 million people's contact books were directly harvested, the total number of people whose contact information was improperly obtained by Facebook may be hundreds of millions, as people can have hundreds of contacts stored on their contact databases.”

This isn’t the first time that the New York Attorney General has targeted a social media giant.

Earlier this year, James announced an investigation into Apple over its failure to warn consumers about a FaceTime bug that jeopardized the privacy of users. In March last year, the AG also targeted Facebook over the report of misuse of user data with Cambridge Analytica.

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