Zuckerberg to appear before Congress next week

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to testify before the US House Commerce Committee next week to defend the company's use of data and its attitudes towards sharing its users' data with third party companies.

Although Zuckerberg has refused to testify before Parliament in the UK, planning to send Facebook's chief product officer instead, he has agreed to appear before the House to explain how the social network uses and shares its users' data.He was asked to attend the hearing byGreg Walden and Frank Pallone, committee members, who have both voiced their approval that Zuckerberg will speak before them.

Politicians on both sides of Atlantic have demanded answers after it emerged that Cambridge Analytica and university professor harvested the details of millions of Facebook users through a third party app. Yesterday Zuckerberg revealed the number of profiles collected by the company - initially reported as 50 million - was as high as 87 million, including one million in the UK.

Cambridge Analytica was allegedly partly funded by Trump supporterRobert Mercer and reportedly used the Facebook users' information to US president on his presidential campaign.

Facebook has since updated its terms of service policies and data usage information, explaining that it will not sell the information it holds about anyone to any third party. The company also made a public apology to its users via a newspaper ad published last week.

On a telephone conference with media yesterday, Zuckerberg he expects his Congress hearing "is going to cover a lot of ground".

"I am going to be sending one of our top folks [to the UK]," he added. "I believe it's going to be [Mike Schroepfer], the CTO, or Chris Cox, the product officer. These are the top folks who I run the company with - to answer additional questions from countries and other places."

28/03/2018:Mark Zuckerberg 'will testify to Congress', but not Parliament

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to face Congress to answer questions over his company's involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Zuckerberg has reportedly accepted an invitation to testify before the House's energy and commerce committee, just a day after he turned down Parliament's request to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee (read below).

The billionaire instead nominated two of his deputies to appear before the House of Commons, and Damian Collins MP, the committee chair, described Facebook's offer to send the company's chief technology officer or chief product officer in Zuckerberg's place as "absolutely astonishing". He invited chief product officer Chris Cox to attend, but not before pressing Zuckerberg on his decision to sidestep the session himself.

"Given the seriousness of these issues we still believe that Mark Zuckerberg is the right person to give evidence, and would like him to confirm if he will make himself available to the committee," Collins said.

It's not clear why Zuckerberg has allegedly decided to give evidence to Congress but not to Parliament. The claim was reported by bothCNN Money, citing unnamed Facebook sources, and The Guardian, which gives the Congress hearing date as 12 April.

The Senate judiciary committee's chairman, Chuck Grassley, has also formally invited Zuckerberg to testify in front of his committee on 10 April, although there's currently no indication of whether or not the Facebook CEO has accepted. It's also reported by the Guardian that the Senate commerce committee wants him to give evidence too.

IT Pro has contacted Facebook to confirm whether Zuckerberg will in fact be appearing in front of a congressional committee, but hadn't received a response at the time of publication.

27/03/2018:Mark Zuckerberg won't answer Parliament's data privacy questions

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, has declined a requestto personally answer a Parliamentary committee's questions about his company's use of user data.

Following revelations of potential data misuse by Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly harvested 50 million Facebook profiles without their consent, Damian Collins, chair of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, wrote to Zuckerberg requesting the social media firm send a representative to face questioning by the parliamentary committee, suggesting the 33-year-old should himself attend.

In a response to the MP issued yesterday, Facebook's head of public policy in the UK, Rebecca Stimson, said Zuckerberg would not attend, but has instead asked the chief technology officer and chief product officer to make themselves available.

"Facebook fully recognizes the level of public and Parliamentary interest in these issues and support your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position to answer your questions," she said. "As such, Mr Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available to give evidence in person to the Committee."

The nominated representatives are CTO Mike Schroepfer, who is "responsible for Facebook's technology including the company's developer platform" something that lies at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and CPO Chris Cox, who "leads development of Facebook's core products and features including News Feed".

Stimson's letter points out that the two are some of the longest-serving staff members, report directly to the CEO and, due to their positions, will be "well placed to answer the Committee's questions on these complex subjects".

She also laid out steps Facebook is taking to protect user data in the future and investigations it's carrying out now to determine the extent of the nonconsensual data collection allegedly carried out by Cambridge Analytica through its platform.

Collins responded this morning, saying the committee would ask Cox to attend, but expressed dismay that Zuckerberg would not appear as requested.

"Given the seriousness of these issues we still believe that Mark Zuckerberg is the right person to give evidence, and would like him to confirm if he will make himself available to the Committee," Collins said. "He stated in interviews that if he is the right person to appear he will appear. We think he is the right person and look forward to hearing from him."

Jane McCallion
Managing Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's Managing Editor, specializing in data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Managing Editor, she held the role of Deputy Editor and, prior to that, Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialize in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.