Crapo, Brown probe Facebook over financial data collection

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WASHINGTON — The leaders of the Senate Banking Committee are probing Facebook on its data collection and how it shares the information with financial firms to market products to consumers.

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and the panel's top Democrat, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said they are examining the social media firm's policies as part of discussions on potential data privacy legislation.

“It is important to understand how large social platforms make data available that can be used in ways that have big implications for consumers’ financial lives, including to market or make decisions on financial products or services that impact a consumer’s access to or cost of credit and insurance products, or in ways that impact their employment prospects,” the senators said in a letter Thursday. “It is also important to understand how large social platforms use financial data to profile and target consumers.”

The letter follows a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook is recruiting dozens of financial firms and online merchants to launch a cryptocurrency-based payments system. Facebook has asked U.S. banks for detailed financial information about consumers, which has raised concerns from privacy experts.

Crapo and Brown are asking Zuckerberg how the cryptocurrency-based payment system will work and what outreach it has done to ensure that regulatory requirements are satisfied, and what privacy protections users would have under the payment system.

They are also asking to what extent Facebook has received consumer financial information from financial firms and what it does with that information.

And they want to know whether Facebook has any data containing individuals’ creditworthiness as well as how the social media company is ensuring that its use of that information is not in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The senators did not give Zuckerberg a deadline to respond.

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