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Facebook Whistleblower: Counterespionage Understaffing Is National Security Threat

Richard Blumenthal and Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen at a Senate subcommittee hearing.
Richard Blumenthal and Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen at an Oct. 5 Senate subcommittee hearing. (Image credit: C-SPAN)

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, whose last job at the social media company was working on the counterespionage team, may have opened up a new front in Congress’s war on the social platform.

That came during a hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, where she was testifying on children's online safety and the alleged lack of it when it came to Facebook.

She was explaining that among the things she looked at was China’s tracking and surveillance using the platform and Iran’s tracking of other state actors. She said Facebook’s “consistent” understaffing of their counterespionage information operations and counterterrorism was a national security threat.

She said she was already speaking with “other parts of Congress” about it.

That got the immediate attention of Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Armed Services Committee, who asked whether she was saying that whether Facebook knew it or not it was being used by the country's adversaries “to push and promote their interests at the expense of America’s.”

Haugen said that Facebook was “very aware” that it was happening and the fact that Congress does not get a report from the company on how many people are working on the issue internally is "unacceptable." She told the committee she had “strong national security concerns” about how Facebook operates.

Subcommittee chairman Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Haugen, “you may have just opened an area for another hearing.” He said “we may want to discuss this issue,” at least informally and possibly for another hearing, which Sullivan definitely supported.

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.