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Tue, June 18

FTC, states increase pressure on Facebook on privacy

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. regulators and state attorneys general are increasing pressure on Facebook as they probe whether the company's data-collection practices have hurt the people who use its services.

The Federal Trade Commission confirmed news reports on Monday that it was investigating the company. Separately, the attorneys general for 37 U.S. states and territories sought details Monday on how Facebook monitored what app developers did with data collected on Facebook users and whether Facebook had safeguards to prevent misuse.

Facebook's privacy practices have come under fire after revelations that a Trump-affiliated consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, got data on millions of Facebook users. That included information on friends of people who had downloaded a psychological quiz app, even though those friends hadn't given explicit consent to sharing.

Facebook is also facing questions about reports that it collected years of contact names, telephone numbers, call lengths and information about text messages from Android users. Facebook says the data is used "to improve people's experience across Facebook" by helping to connect with others. But the company did not spell out exactly what it used the data for or why it needed it.

European officials also have also been investigating or seeking more information. Germany's justice minister said Monday that she wants closer oversight of companies such as Facebook after a meeting with its executives about the abuse of users' data. Last week, a U.K. parliamentary media committee summoned CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about how Facebook uses data, while U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is investigating how Cambridge Analytica got the data.

In addition, the state's attorney of Cook County in Illinois has sued Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for consumer fraud after revelations that the latter obtained data on millions of Facebook users. Facebook has not commented on the lawsuit.

The recent troubles follow Facebook's most difficult year yet, as the company dealt with fake news, "filter bubbles" that lead to increasing polarization, and congressional hearings over Russian agents' alleged use of social media to meddle with the 2016 presidential elections.

In January, Zuckerberg set fixing Facebook as his personal challenge for 2018. Nearly three months in, it's a taller order than ever.

Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the U.S. probe would include whether the company engaged in "unfair acts" that cause "substantial injury" to consumers.

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