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Hawley subpoenas Facebook over user data

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Atty. Gen. Josh Hawley announces his office has subpoenaed Facebook over how it handles user data.

Missouri is the latest state to go after Facebook following national news reports that the social media giant has been sharing users’ data with third parties.

Attorney General Josh Hawley has issued a subpoena in order to find out whether Facebook has violated Missouri’s merchandising practices law.

“There are allegations that third parties have not just used information on the profile that you or other consumers have posted, but they’ve been able, through Facebook, then, to gain access to things like phone records, text messaging, web pages visited,” he said. “We want to know if these things are true and the extent of the data that’s been collected.”

Hawley also subpoenaed Google in November over how it handles user information and told reporters Monday that the two inquiries may overlap.

“There appears to be some nexus between Facebook and Google and how they stored, and then used, our personal information,” he said. “My office wants to know how much personal information the Facebook app tracked on Google Android phones, and we want to know whether Android users were aware of this tracking, and whether they consented to it.”

Hawley and 36 other state attorneys general have sent a letter to Facebook executives regarding its handling of user data.

The Federal Trade Commission confirmed last week that it's launched an investigation.

Hawley, a Republican, also cited “multiple reports” that Facebook “voluntarily provided” data from millions of users to former President Barack Obama’s 2012 election campaign.

“That forms the subject of some of our queries in our subpoena,” he said. “We’d like to know, 'What information did they give to that campaign, apart from the advertising platform, that every entity or campaign has access to?'”

Hawley is seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. He took a swipe at Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill during Monday’s press conference when asked about her record on consumer protection.

“Senator McCaskill has failed to do her job in a lot of areas, whether that’s protecting consumers, protecting taxpayers, protecting farmers; the list goes on,” he said.

A spokesperson for McCaskill's re-election campaign issued a written response, saying that the senator has "fought to protect Missouri consumers and defend taxpayers," and cited her role in investigating General Motors and the opioid industry.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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