Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner, the vice chair and chair of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent to Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms on Monday a letter that suggested the company was aware that programmers in Russia and China had access to user data that might be used for spying
The senators claim in a letter dated February 6 that Meta was aware since “at least September 2018” that many devs from nations including not only China but also other countries on the list of restricted nations, such as Russia, had access to a database.
However, the multinational company had already deemed such countries to be “high risk.”
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Even though Facebook was never approved to run in China, the letter stated that an internal Meta report disclosed that roughly 90,000 developers had access to the data, including private messages, profile data, and images.
They reported that thousands of developers in North Korea and Iran and over 42,000 in Russia had access to the data. Meta added that the records are an artifact by a different product at a different timeline.
Meta also said that they made significant platform modifications many years ago, blocking developers’ access to some sorts of Facebook data while evaluating and allowing all apps that requested access to private data.
According to Meta, the addresses and names of the developers included in the complaint are from earlier than 2014.
Allegation on Meta
The senators questioned Zuckerberg about a lot of topics, including whether the firm had any evidence that any designers’ access enabled organized unlawful activity, targeting activity, or any other corrupting behavior by foreign governments.
The letter also provides a comprehensive list of the kinds of information the programmers had access to and the timescales connected with that access.
Rubio and Warner demanded that the firm provide any data it may have that it had passed to Russia, China, or other countries.
The senators say that the information was made public since court records recently disclosed about “pending litigation” against Meta, most likely the initial lawsuit filed against it in 2018 in the Northern District of California.
Facebook agreed to pay $725 million in December to resolve the underlying class action case.
Although it doesn’t specify what kinds of information the developers may have obtained, the report focuses on a date before 2014, when Facebook had limited third-party data access, including educational level, political views, and relationship statuses, among other things.
The senate letter requests further details regarding the investigation’s results, paying special attention to whether or not Facebook users’ data may have found its way into the hands of Russian or Chinese intelligence services.
The letter alleges that the level to which the tech giant let the breach happen was considerably more than previously assumed.
The letter says that senators had raised related concerns in the wake of a New York Times article from 2018 that detailed how Facebook had given Chinese-based developers access to photographs, user profiles, contact details, user IDs, and private messages.
The letter continues by asserting that Facebook’s data sharing with potentially unwanted individuals from China has long been known since the issue first surfaced.
When the initial news came, it was also discovered that Facebook had given Chinese tech industries access to app programming interfaces, including Huawei. These interfaces connect different computer programs and are considered sensitive by cybersecurity experts.
As a result, the US-based company was pulled before the Senate Intelligence Committee. They also demanded proof to deny that the data was misused to launch propaganda campaigns or target Americans.