By Jon Delano

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — “We want to make it clear to Mr. Zuckerberg and the folks at Facebook that we want answers,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told KDKA money & politics editor Jon Delano on Monday.

Led by Shapiro, 37 state Attorneys General sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday.

“We organized a coalition of 37 attorneys general, Democrats and Republicans, AGs from all over this country, to demand answers because the impact of this breach of trust exists all over the United States and really all over the world,” said Shapiro. “We’re going to get to the bottom of it.

“This is a pivotal moment for Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg. He has far more responsibility in managing his platform than he did ten years ago,” said Shapiro. “Whether he likes it or not, as really a world leader, as a deliverer of information, he’s got a responsibility to make sure that there’s integrity in his system, and that people’s information is trusted.”

In their letter, the AGs posed questions to Zuckerberg starting with whether consumers understood the terms of service.

  • Were terms of service clear and understandable?
  • What controls did Facebook have over those given users’ data?
  • Did Facebook have protective safeguards in place?
  • How many users in each state were impacted?

Shapiro: “When you or any Pittsburgher signs up for Facebook, they click on agreeing to a term of service agreement. I would presume most people haven’t read that.”
Delano: “Yes, I think that is a correct assumption.”
Shapiro: “We’re digging deep into that because we have a responsibility to protect the people in our respective states. So it starts with what do the terms of agreement really stipulate? Then the second question is, okay, what happened with that data, the personal data? How did it get to this researcher and was that an appropriate relationship and, ultimately, from the researcher to Cambridge Analytica?”

What controls did Facebook have over the data, were there safeguards in place to prevent misuse, and when did Facebook learn of third party breach of privacy protections?

Shapiro says this is not the traditional data breach where hackers steal data.

“This is really different, right? Facebook gave these individuals the key to the warehouse where this information was being stored, and they were allowed to go and use it,” Shapiro said. “So we’re going to investigate whether that was really an appropriate use of people’s information.”

 

“These are the kinds of questions we want answers to, and we’re going to get answers to one way or the other. Either Facebook is going to voluntarily comply and respond to us, or we’ll use the legal tools that we have to hold them accountable,” Shapiro said.

Unlike the standard data breach where a hacker steals information, Shapiro says, in this case, Facebook gave the data to a researcher who in turn supplied it to Cambridge Analytica who may have used it for political purposes to help the Trump campaign.

“Was this the only such relationship with a third party application, if you will, where people’s data could have been shared, right? I know the media is focused on Cambridge Analytica because of its role in the election, but we want to know if there were other applications,” Shapiro said.

And Shapiro acknowledges the issue could go beyond Facebook.

Delano: “Could this also happen with Twitter, Instagram, and all the other social media outlets there?”
Shapiro: “I think that is a reasonable question, and part of what I’m trying to do as attorney general is really to beef up our efforts to protect citizens when they are online.”

The Attorney General says Facebook executives are beginning to answer.

“I think if they do that, then I would hope in the coming weeks we would be able to provide more answers to the people of Pennsylvania and the American people,” Shapiro said. “If they throw up roadblocks, if they try to be difficult, this could take longer but eventually we will get the answers.”