Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said Monday he's demanding answers from social media website Facebook about how it stored, used and shared its customers' information.
"People all over Missouri put their lives on their (Facebook) profiles with the expectation that they are sharing this information with people they choose to connect to," Hawley told reporters at a Monday news conference, "not with unknown, random third parties.
"(But) Facebook built a profile on us — a profile that they have, reportedly, shared with third parties who want to make a profit, earn a vote or somehow persuade us to make a decision that may be in their best interests, but not necessarily in ours."
He said Facebook also tracks "what pages we visit if we click on a link on the app, what messages we have seen or sent, all of the contacts on our phone, what things we might be interested in based on what we 'Like,' and all the applications we have ever linked to on our Facebook account, including where, and when, we used them.
"This is, truly, a wealth of personal, private, confidential information, and the question is, what — exactly — is Facebook doing with this information? With whom are they sharing it?
"What are they doing to protect it from third parties who have access to this data?"
Last week, Hawley was one of 37 state attorneys general who signed a letter asking for information from Facebook.
He also reported his office on Monday took another step, issuing what's called a "civil investigative demand" under Missouri's Merchandise Practices Act, demanding responses to around 60 questions, such as:
Does Facebook "truly disclose to its users the kind of data that it collects?"
Does the social media giant tell how it uses and/or shares that information?
"Is Facebook taking the necessary precautions to protect the personal information of its users?"
Facebook official Will Castleberry told the Associated Press the company looks forward to responding, when it gets details of the request.
Hawley said his staff also is asking Facebook how much personal information the Facebook app tracked on Google Android phones.
"We want to know whether Android users were aware of this tracking, and whether they consented to it," Hawley said.
The attorney general noted people join Facebook for a variety of reasons, including "to share pictures of our kids, our travels, our work, to share our opinions about news, sports (or) politics (and) to be part of a community (and) to feel connected to old friends and family members living far away."
He acknowledged people post their information willingly.
"But the question really is, though," he said, "when you post things to Facebook, are you as a user adequately informed about what is happening to the information that you post there?
"And do you know where that information goes, and to whom it goes?"
Hawley's investigation into both companies is based on Missouri — not federal — law, he emphasized.
"We will continue to work to protect the safety and privacy of every Missourian," he said. "The most important thing is to get the facts."
The AP reports the Federal Trade Commission also is investigating.
Hawley mentioned reports Facebook gave information to the Obama presidential campaign in 2012 — and the first-term Republican is a candidate in the GOP's August primary seeking the right to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election.
However, he said, his investigations into Facebook and Google aren't political.
"It's my obligation to enforce the law, whether that affects Democrats or Republicans or independents or Greens," he said. "With over 2 billion users worldwide, and millions in Missouri, Facebook wields enormous power — not just in the market, but in our personal lives."