NY governor orders probe into Facebook’s access to the data of other apps

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered two of the government to investigate a media report that Facebook Inc may be accessing much more personal information than previously known of the smartphone users, including health and other sensitive data.

The directive of New York Department of State and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) came after the Wall Street Journal said testing showed that Facebook collected personal information of other apps on users ‘ smartphones within seconds of them entering.

The wall street journal reported that the various apps for the sharing of any sensitive data of the user such as weight, blood pressure, and ovulation status with Facebook. The report said that the company can access data in some cases, even when the user is not logged in to Facebook or not having a Facebook account. In a statement, Cuomo called the practice an “outrageous abuse of privacy.” He also called on the federal regulators to be involved.

Facebook said in a statement that it would help New York officials in their probe, but noted that the WSJ the report focused on how other apps do people use the data to create ads.

“If (the WSJ) reported, we have the other app developers to be clear with their users about the information they share with us, and we prohibit app developers from sending sensitive data. We also take steps to detect and remove data that should not be shared with us,” the company said.

Shares in Facebook took a brief hit after the newspaper report was published, but closed up 1.2 percent. At the end of January, Cuomo together with the New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an investigation into Apple Inc it not to warn consumers about a FaceTime bug that had let the iphone users to listen to conversations of others who have not yet accepted a video call.

Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory questions about privacy issues, including a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the information that Facebook inappropriately shared information of 87 million users with the Uk political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

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New York’s financial services department is not a traditional monitoring the social media companies directly, but has waded into digital privacy in the financial sector and could oversee a number of app providers that send data from the user to Facebook.

In March, it is planned to support the implementation of the first cybersecurity rules for state-regulated financial institutions such as banks, insurers and credit monitoring.

Last month, DFS said: life insurers can use social media messages in the underwriting, as long as they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected classes.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Katie Paul in San Francisco; editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Tom Brown

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