AG Hawley's office launches investigation of Facebook

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley issued an investigative subpoena Monday against Facebook in response to the sharing and tracking of users' data. 

As a Facebook user himself, Hawley said he is concerned.

“Think about the kinds of information we put on our Facebook pages. Pictures of our kids, pictures of our family, pictures of family vacations, pictures of our work colleague and then to think that all of that information and more might have been acquired by entities that we don’t even know,” Hawley said. “Who even knows who has this information? I think it’s really terrifying.”

Hawley's subpoena comes after 37 state attorneys general signed a letter asking for answers from Facebook related to the data collection.

According to a press release, the attorney general’s office wants to determine three things:

  • Did Facebook exercise appropriate care and protection of private consumer data?
  • Did the terms and conditions for use of the website or app explain how user data would be used?
  • Was Facebook’s response to the third-party mishandling of user data appropriate and informative enough for users?

At a press conference Hawley said the subpoena has 60 queries for Facebook to answer.

“The question is what exactly is Facebook doing with this information,” Hawley said. “With whom are they sharing it? What are they doing to protect it from third parties who have access to this data?”

"As the chief law enforcement officer in Missouri, I must protect the privacy of internet users," Hawley said. "As technology develops at a rapid pace, Silicon Valley needs to ensure that the proper protections are in place to guard consumer privacy. If they do not do this, my office will pursue those responsible." 

Hawley is using the Missouri Merchandizing Practices Act to issue the civil subpoena. He said there are a range of actions he could take based on the findings. 

“It could be fines. It could be more,” Hawley said. “The most important thing is to get the facts.”

Andrew Mulvania, a Facebook user in Columbia, said he considered deleting his account when the allegations were first made.

“You share [information] because you want to share it with your friends,” Mulvania said. “I think most people are under the illusion that this is a social sharing thing where they can share with their friends and family.”

Although Mulvania said he is not a supporter of Hawley, he supports the actions he and others are taking.

“I fully support Josh Hawley or any official who wants to look into Facebook’s operations and peak into the books, see where the money is going,” Mulvania said.

Mulvania said he is looking forward to hearing what the investigation uncovers.