Democratic Senators Find New Flaws with Facebook

Facebook is facing more animus from Senate Democrats over new revelations of its handling of access to its users' data, specifically that the company was considering an ad for data access quid pro quo.

Using terms like chaotic, reckless, and lawless, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was responding to new documents that he says show Facebook violated its consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission over lax oversight of user data privacy.

He said there was growing evidence that the company granted access to consumer's private data for Facebook's financial gain. 

Related: Sen. Blumenthal Says Big Tech May Have to Get Smaller

"More than six months after [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress, Facebook is still clueless as to how many other Cambridge Analyticas are out there—a basic question my colleagues and I asked." That was a reference to Facebook's sharing of third-party data without cluing-in users about what was happening.

'These new documents show clearly that Facebook failed to heed their consent decree agreement and basic standards of privacy. The FTC must act decisively and vigorously to end this consistent pattern of negligence and disregard for consumer privacy and legal orders.”

That concern over internal discussions about data sharing revealed by the new documents was shared by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), another leading voice for online privacy protections—and author of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Related: Sen. Warner Says Facebook Security Needs Investigating

“It should not be up to Mark Zuckerberg to decide who has access to information such as what you ‘like,’ your name, your gender, or your city of residence,” he said.

“Americans’ data belongs to them, not Facebook.

"When he testified before Congress, Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly insisted that Facebook does not sell its users’ data. We now know, however, that Facebook executives discussed requiring companies to buy digital advertisements in order to access users’ personal information. Any evidence of a pay-for-data model would fly in the face of the statements Facebook has made to Congress and the public.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.