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New York Attorney General to Investigate Facebook’s Unauthorised Email Data Collection

By: Shouvik Das

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Last Updated: April 26, 2019, 17:30 IST

Representative photo (Image: Reuters)

Representative photo (Image: Reuters)

The news comes after earlier this week, Facebook was found to be harvesting email contacts and data of new users on its platform.

Facebook is now facing a standalone investigation by the New York State attorney general, in light of its unauthorised collection of data linked to over 1.5 million email addresses. The issue came to light after Facebook was found to be taking access into email accounts of users that signed up on their platform after May 2016, and simultaneously uploading respective lists of contacts on to their servers in a bid to serve targeted advertisements to users as well as their contacts.

Letitia James, attorney general of New York, stated to The New York Times, “Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers’ information while at the same time profiting from mining that data. It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers’ personal information.” In response, Facebook has reportedly claimed that it is in touch with the attorney general’s office, and has been responding to questions that is being asked of its practices.

This is yet another episode of Facebook’s ridiculously exploitative and forceful data collection practices. Over the past three years, Facebook has first been found attempting to promote a stricter internet regime with FreeBasic, which essentially threatened to curtail freedom of speech and information in a Mark Zuckerberg-led dictatorial internet space. However, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is where Facebook’s invasive privacy practices came into public light, and it has been a steady downfall of integrity for the social media platform, since then.

Facebook stated that the email contact collection practice has been stopped, but only since it started being reported by publications across the world. Users whose data was collected are reportedly being informed by Facebook of the ordeal. It is this particular aspect that will be investigated by the attorney general’s office, including how and why it came into being, particularly since Facebook had declared in May 2016 that it will no longer ask for email passwords to be shared for users who newly sign up on the platform.

The authorities will also examine if the contact data collection was spread out to even more users worldwide, and exactly how many of Facebook’s nearly 2.4 billion users have been affected by it. Earlier this year, the attorney general’s office put pressure on Apple for its mismanaged FaceTime privacy bug, and why the company did not respond with due importance even after the issue was brought to light.