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Attorneys General Demand Answers From Facebook

March 26, 2018 1:37 p.m.

Attorneys General Demand Answers From Facebook


Dan Eaton, partner, Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek

Related Story: Attorneys General Demand Answers From Facebook


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our top story a midday addition, California has joined 36 states in demanding more answers from Facebook about the safety of users personal information. Javier Becerra signed onto a letter asking why Facebook users personal data was provided to third parties without their knowledge or informed consent. Recently reports revealed that information from at least 50 million profiles were given to third party software developers and may have been manipulated by the company Cambridge analytic up. Joining me is legal analyst Dan Eaton. What are California Attorney General Becerra and other agencies asking for from Facebook. They are asking specific questions. Among the questions they are asking includes did the third party software developers violate the scope in terms of Facebooks owns user policies. And where those terms and services user policies efficiency clear to the average user so they knew what they were doing even if the third parties complied with Facebooks turns of services. They are asking the kinds of questions basically did Facebook do enough to guard its users privacy based on what users understood they were disclosing and making available in their use of the platform. Struck this letter is not threatening legal action. You say yes.
>> I am sorry to interrupt you. It is clear from the letter that these attorney generals are saying well we care a lot about protecting the privacy of our residents information. One specific answer to this question is to see if you had safeguards in place with respect to user privacy. If the problem is with the software developers, okay. That is one thing. Did Facebook do enough to audit these developers practices and could they have done more to clarify their terms of services, audit the developers use of information that was disclosed, and a variety of other things to prevent this from happening. We realized this was not a data breach at such. Facebook contends that it was a breach by the software developer of its contract with Facebook. The software developers use this information to which they received assets from Facebook.

>>> A lot of this controversy revolves around whether or not Facebook users gave informed consent for this data to be used in any particular way. What does it mean to give informed consent?
>> Informed consent means you're giving consent understanding the scope of the consent. Informed consent can be given by signing a document or pressing yes I agree on a particular screen with respect to the terms and conditions of a user that Facebook imposes. Informed consent can mean that you have given consent to the use of your data even if you have not scrolled down and read all of the terms that the platform is insisting that you agree too. That is one of the issues. The question here is whether the existing terms and conditions that Facebook had to which users agreed even allowed the software developers to do what they did with this information. If they did not, Facebook may have a claim against the software developers in addition to potential legal liability that Facebook itself might save that school face.

>>> How is what this letter or the subsequent legal action by these attorneys general, are they going to be asking for the same information ?
>> They will ask for similar information. The states attorney general has overlapping jurisdiction to the FTC. With the FTC is concerned about is whether Facebook violated the terms of the 2011 settlement agreement that Facebook reached the promised they would not release information to third parties. Facebook would not release information to third parties without the informed consent of the user. The question is whether this whole thing violated the terms of the settlement agreement that Facebook reached. If it did, Facebook is potentially facing several thousands of dollars may be hundreds or millions of dollars in fines as a result of violating the terms of this consent agreement Facebook reached with the FTC.

>>> I have been speaking with attorney Dan Eaton. Thank you, Dan.
>> Thank you, Maureen.