Senate intel leaders raise alarm over alleged leak of Facebook user data to foreign developers

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s leadership is demanding Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg answer questions about user data allegedly exposed to software developers in China, Russia and other countries that could have been used to facilitate espionage. 

Sens. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said that unsealed documents in litigation against Meta appeared to reveal that user data may have been exposed to hundreds of thousands of developers in countries that Facebook deemed “high-risk jurisdictions.” 

“As the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we have grave concerns about the extent to which this access could have enabled foreign intelligence service activity, ranging from foreign malign influence to targeting and counterintelligence activity,” the senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Zuckerberg on Monday.  

Mr. Warner and Mr. Rubio said their staffs had numerous meetings with Facebook representatives about its efforts to protect user data in the aftermath of a 2018 report that showed the tech company gave access to application programming interfaces to entities in the People’s Republic of China. 

“Given those discussions, we were startled to learn recently, as a result of this ongoing litigation and discovery, that Facebook had concluded that a much wider range of foreign-based developers, in addition to the PRC-based device makers, also had access to this data,” Mr. Warner and Mr. Rubio wrote. 

The senators said newly unsealed documentation showed nearly 90,000 developers in China, more than 42,000 developers in Russia and thousands more developers in a slew of countries such as Iran and North Korea had access to user information. 

“These documents are an artifact from a different product at a different time,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. “Many years ago, we made substantive changes to our platform, shutting down developers’ access to key types of data on Facebook while reviewing and approving all apps that request access to sensitive information.” 

Mr. Warner and Mr. Rubio want to know what information the developers in China and Russia had access to and the timeframe for when they had any access, as well as how Meta evaluated the risk associated with those in the adversarial countries.

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