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Facebook faces investigation by New York Attorney General over email collection – CNET

Facebook says it's fixed the issue and will notify users who were affected. 

James Martin/CNET

Facebook is being investigated by the New York attorney general's office for harvesting the email contacts of about 1.5 million users without their consent. 

"It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers' personal information," said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement Thursday. "Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers' information while at the same time profiting from mining that data."

The social network confirmed in April that it collected the email contacts of its users, but said it wasn't on purpose. A security researcher spotted the issue after he noticed the social network asked users to enter their email passwords when they signed up for new accounts to verify their identity. Once a user entered their password, a message popped up saying that the company was importing your email contacts, Business Insider learned.

Facebook said earlier this month that it fixed the issue and will notify users who were affected. The attorney general's office said in a press release that hundreds of millions of Facebook users could have been affected because users might have hundreds of email contacts stored. 

"We're in touch with the New York State attorney general's office and are responding to their questions on this matter," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. 

The attorney general's investigation comes as other regulators and lawmakers are cracking down on Facebook for its privacy practices. 

In December, the DC attorney general sued Facebook for allegedly failing to safeguard the data of its users.

On Thursday, Canadian regulators accused Facebook of violating local laws for mishandling user data and said it'd take the company to court for its privacy mishaps. The privacy commissioner of Canada and the information and privacy commissioner for British Columbia started investigating Facebook last year after revelations surfaced that a UK political consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvested data from about 87 million users without their permission. 

The US Federal Trade Commission also started investigating Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal for possibly violating a legal agreement it had with the federal government to keep user data private. Facebook estimates that the FTC could fine the company $3 billion to $5 billion.  If that's correct, the FTC fine would be larger than the record-setting $22.5 million the agency imposed on Google in 2012.

Originally published April 25, 1:52 p.m. PT
Update, 2:20 p.m. PT: Includes statement from Facebook and more background. Update, 2:38 p.m. PT: Includes background about other investigations.

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