Missouri AG Opens Probe into Facebook Data Use

Attorney General Josh Hawley is launching an investigation into the social media company’s data sharing practices with political groups.

by Jason Hancock, The Kansas City Star / April 2, 2018
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(TNS) — JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is launching an investigation into Facebook, demanding that the social media company disclose each time it shared users’ personal data with a political group.

According to a civil investigative demand, which functions like a subpoena, Hawley’s office wants Facebook to turn over how much campaigns paid Facebook for users’ personal data, as well as whether users were notified. The civil investigative demand obtained by The Star was dated Monday.

News of the investigation was first reported Sunday evening by Bloomberg.

“Missourians must be able to trust that tech companies are honest about what they do with private consumer data,” Hawley said in a statement. “They must also be able to trust that these companies are protecting this data and ensuring that it is not disseminated illegally.”

Hawley’s investigation follows reports that a British technology firm called Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission.

Hawley is requesting a timeline of Facebook’s interaction with Cambridge Analytica.

Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating whether Cambridge Analytica may have used the improperly obtained data to try to influence elections, including the 2016 presidential race.

Cambridge Analytica worked for the Donald Trump campaign, earning more than $5.9 million in 2016, according to Federal Election Commission filings, and for the “Brexit” campaign in the United Kingdom.

Numerous members of Congress paid the company for its services during the 2016 election cycle.

Cambridge Analytica received about $5.8 million from the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, whose consultant was the Missouri-based Republican Jeff Roe. It received $12,000 from the campaign of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who paid the company in 2015 for data services in the run-up to his 2016 race for re-election.

Hawley, who is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, is also looking at President Barack Obama’s use of Facebook in 2012, seeking all communications and documents about meetings Facebook had with the former president’s campaign.

Attorneys general in several other states have launched similar probes of Facebook, including New York, Massachusetts and Mississippi.

©2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.