New York’s attorney general is launching an investigation into Facebook after it was reported last week that the company had scraped the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their consent.
“It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers' personal information,” state Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers’ information while at the same time profiting from mining that data.”
James added that the incident is the “latest demonstration that Facebook does not take seriously its role in protecting our personal information.”
ADVERTISEMENTA spokesperson for Facebook said it was “in touch with the New York State attorney general’s office" and that it would be "responding to their questions on this matter."
Business Insider first reported Facebook’s actions last week after a security researcher noticed that some new Facebook users were being asked for their email passwords when they signed up for the social network.
Facebook told the outlet that it harvested 1.5 million users’ address books. The total number of email addresses it obtained is unclear, but could easily reach into the tens or hundreds of millions.
The company said it did not access the content of any of the users’ emails.
The incident is just the latest in a series of crises for Facebook which is still facing regulatory blowback from its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was revealed a year ago.
A Facebook spokesperson said before May 2016, it offered an option to verify a user's account using their email password and voluntarily upload their contacts at the same time. Facebook now plans to notify the 1.5 million users affected over the coming days and delete their contacts from the company's systems.
On Wednesday, the company revealed that it had set aside $3 billion for a potential settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over the debacle, and that it anticipated a fine as high as $5 billion.