U.S Senators are investigating Meta (Facebook) for sharing sensitive user information with China and North Korea

Jalyn Smoot

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WASHINGTON - Meta is in hot water after a federal investigation revealed that the popular social media platform has been sharing sensitive user data with foreign developers.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, reportedly granted developers in Russia, China, and North Korea access to sensitive user information.

Concerned about potential data breaches and the dangers of leaking user information to foreign developers, two U.S. senators are now pressuring Meta and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain its digital malpractice.

It appears from these documents that Facebook has known, since at least September 2018, that hundreds of thousands of developers in countries Facebook characterized as 'high-risk,' including the People’s Republic of China, had access to significant amounts of sensitive user data," Senators Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Republican Marco Rubio wrote in the letter to company founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The investigation of Meta was conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2018. Through this, it was revealed that Meta, during the days it operated as Facebook, shared sensitive data with tens of thousands of developers across the globe.

This trend continued from the inception of Facebook through 2014, when the company began safeguarding user information better.

We have grave concerns about the extent to which this access could have enabled foreign intelligence service activity, ranging from foreign malign influence to targeting and counter-intelligence," the two senators wrote.

Many of the developers Meta shared data with were in areas that the company deemed "high-risk", which makes the partnership between Meta and the software developers even more puzzling.

Now, after nearly a decade of exposing sensitive user information, Meta finds itself in the thick of a federal investigation.

Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio told Bloomberg that their staff met with Meta executives to try to pinpoint more accurate findings about the data leaks.

From these conversations, they discovered that Meta was hiding much more than anticipated.

Given those discussions,” Warner and Rubio wrote, “we were startled to learn recently, as a result of this ongoing litigation and discovery, that Facebook had concluded that a much wider range of foreign-based developers, in addition to the PRC-based device-makers, also had access to this data.”

That included 42,000 developers in Russia, and developers in North Korea and Iran, the senators said. 

In a statement refuting the findings, Meta representatives said that the documents “are an artifact from a different product at a different time. Many years ago, we made substantive changes to our platform, shutting down developers’ access to key types of data on Facebook while reviewing and approving all apps that request access to sensitive information.”

Meta declined to answer whether the app developer investigation is still ongoing or how many apps have been reviewed since the 2018 slide presentation, which was unsealed in court last week. The document had projected the probe would continue at least through 2020.

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