February 26. 2024. 5:07

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US senators question Zuckerberg on Chinese, Russian access to user data

Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, chair and vice chair of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote to Facebook parent Meta Platforms on Monday (6 February) about documents that show it knew developers in China and Russia had access to user data that could be used for espionage.

“It appears from these documents that Facebook has known, since at least September 2018, that hundreds of thousands of developers in countries Facebook characterized as ‘high-risk,’ including the People’s Republic of China, had access to significant amounts of sensitive user data,” Warner, a Democrat, and Republican Rubio wrote in the letter to company founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The letter said an internal Meta document showed that nearly 90,000 developers in China had been given access to information about users, including profile data, photos and private messages even though Facebook had never been able to operate in China.

More than 42,000 developers in Russia and thousands in Iran and North Korea also had access to the information, they wrote.

The unsealed documents came to light as part of litigation in the Northern District of California that was filed in 2018.

“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 counter-intelligence,” the two senators wrote.

The senators asked Zuckerberg a series of questions, including whether the company was able to identify the developers, communications with them, and to supply what kinds information that developers in China and Russia might have been able to glean.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)