U.S. Congress invites Mark Zuckerberg to testify at future Facebook user data hearing
'Hearing will examine the harvesting and sale of personal information,' House committee says
U.S. lawmakers on Friday formally asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain at a Washington hearing how 50 million users' data got into the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
The world's largest social media network is under growing pressure from governments, investors and advertisers. This follows allegations by a whistleblower that U.K. political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users' information to build profiles on U.S. voters that were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.
"The hearing will examine the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy," chairman Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican who chairs the panel, and Frank Pallone, the top Democrat, and other committee leaders wrote in the letter.
The House energy and commerce committee did not say when they planned the hearing but it will not happen until Congress returns from a two-week recess.
Zuckerberg said this week he would be willing to testify if he is the right person at the company to speak to lawmakers.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company had received the letter and was reviewing it, but did not say whether or not Zuckerberg would agree to testify.
Bipartisan E&C leaders send formal invitation to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify before the committee >> <a href="https://t.co/MtFXFPIJjT">https://t.co/MtFXFPIJjT</a>—@HouseCommerce
Separately, the leaders of the U.S. Senate commerce committee also asked Zuckerberg to testify. Sen. John Thune, the committee chairman, and Bill Nelson, the top Democrat, said the committee would work with Facebook "to find a suitable date for Mr. Zuckerberg to testify in the coming weeks."
Facebook executives spent Wednesday and Thursday on Capitol Hill briefing congressional committee staffers. Two senators also asked the Federal Trade Commission, the leading U.S. consumer regulator, to investigate if other firms improperly obtained user data from Facebook users.
The FTC is reviewing whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree it reached with the authority over its privacy practices, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters this week.
Zuckerberg apologized on Wednesday for the mistakes his company had made and promised to restrict developers' access to user information as part of a plan to protect privacy.His apology failed to appease investors and advertizers.
Advertisers Mozilla and Commerzbank have suspended ads on the service and the hashtag #DeleteFacebook remained popular online.
On Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tesla's and SpaceX's Facebook pages — each with more than 2.6 million followers — had been deleted.
"I didn't realize there was one. Will do," Musk wrote on Twitter, responding to a person urging him to delete the SpaceX page.
Investors continued to sell Facebook shares on Friday, although not at the pace of earlier in the week. After opening higher, they were down 1.4 per cent at $162 US, and have fallen around 12 per cent since last Friday. The company has lost more than $50 billion in market value since the allegations surfaced this week.
Zuckerberg said this week he would be willing to testify if he is the right person at the company to speak to lawmakers. Several Democratic U.S. senators are also seeking Zuckerberg's testimony.
Facebook executives spent Wednesday and Thursday on Capitol Hill briefing congressional committee staffers.