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Facebook hits problems after data privacy scandal

March 21st 2018

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to appear before a parliamentary select committee following accusations that the social media network misled itat a previous hearing. 

Zuckerberg has been called to give evidence to the all-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the wake of revelations over the use of its data by election consultancy Cambridge Analytica, one of whose customers was President Donald Trump’s campaign team. It is alleged that the UK-based firm harvested data from millions of Facebook profiles without authorisation to predict and influence the US election. Cambridge Analytica also worked on the Leave.EU campaign supporting Brexit. 

Facebook is also being invested by US consumer and competition watchdog the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  

The company has said that it suspended Cambridge Analytica when reports emerged that information about its users had been inappropriately shared, and not deleted. It claims that Aleksandr Kogan – a University of Cambridge professor – made ‘a personality app that gathered data which he then sold on to third parties, separately from his work at the university. 

A statement read: "The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens." 

Damian Collins MP, chair of the select committee disagrees, saying: "Facebook was not deceived by Cambridge Analytica. They knew what they had done two years ago and only acted against them when it was reported in the press. Mark Zuckerberg needs to speak about this, but he won't even answer questions from his own employees." The company has held an open meeting for all employees following the allegations, chaired not by Zuckerberg but Facebook Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal. 

Facebook’s market value has dropped by $50bn since the allegations broke, with a 7% fall in the share price on Monday and a 2.6% drop on Tuesday. A shareholder filed a lawsuit in San Francisco yesterday, claiming to have been misled about Facebook’s ability to protect user data. More actions are expected. 

White House spokesman Raj Shah has told Fox News that President Trump would welcome an investigation: “The President believes that Americans’ privacy should be protected. You know, if Congress wants to look into the matter or other agencies want to look into the matter, we welcome that. Without knowing the specifics, it’s difficult to tell whether an individual should testify but we do support the privacy of American citizens.” 

The UK’s Information Commissioner (ICO) has announced her intention to investigate Cambridge Analytica, but is awaiting a warrant to enter its offices in central London.