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Facebook under investigation by New York AG over collection of email contacts

August 14, 2019 GMT

Facebook is being investigated in New York for collecting the contact information of potentially hundreds of millions of people without permission, the state’s attorney general said Thursday.

Letitia James, New York’s top prosecutor, said her office has opened a probe after Facebook admitted last week to having “unintentionally” gathered information from the external email accounts of new users.

“It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers’ personal information,” said Ms. James, a Democrat.

“Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers’ information while at the same time profiting from mining that data,” Ms. James said in a statement. “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.”


Facebook is in touch with the New York State Attorney General’s Office and is responding to their questions on this matter, a company spokesperson told The Washington Times.

In a statement April 17, the social network acknowledged collecting contact information stored in the address books of new users who provided their email addresses and corresponding passwords to Facebook to verify their identities while signing up for the service.

Facebook stopped asking users for their third-party credentials last month and has begun deleting information that was “unintentionally” collected as a result of the verification process, the statement said last week.

Launched in 2004, Facebook has repeatedly faced scrutiny over its handling of user data that reached new heights when revelations emerged last year about its relationship with Cambridge Analytica, a British firm that collected the personal information of roughly 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

In paperwork Wednesday, Facebook said it expects to be fined upwards of $5 billion as the result of a probe being conducted by the Federal Trade Commission in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

More recently, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced Thursday that its own investigation into the Cambridge Analytica scandal found Facebook in violation of federal law and blamed the company of committing a “major breach of trust.”

Facebook said it was “disappointed” by the Canadian watchdog’s assessment.