Zuckerberg Will Testify Before Congress on Data-Mining Scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during preparation for the Facebook Communities Summit, in Chicago, June 21, 2017.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

(CN) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to media reports.

Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley on Monday invited Zuckerberg to testify as concerns over the social media company’s privacy practices mount in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal.

The senator also invited the heads of Google and Twitter to supply information regarding their privacy protection practices.

Grassley’s requests come on the heels of revelations by Christopher Wylie, co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, who also worked with Steve Bannon on Donald Trump’s campaign.

Wylie said that Cambridge Analytica used psychological data collected from more than 50 million Facebook users to help sway votes to President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

It purchased the information from a research director at Cambridge University, who uploaded a personality quiz app on Facebook in 2013 that collected data on participants and people in their friend networks.

Several lawsuits filed since the scandal broke last week accuse Facebook of failing to protect the data and unwittingly allowing its users to become victims of sophisticated psychological warfare.

Android users took their shot at Facebook on Tuesday, claiming the social media giant manipulated permission settings on the Google-created operating system to gain access to phone logs and text messages.

The Android users say Facebook profiles about them based on their call logs and text messages and then selling that information to advertisers.

“Facebook scrapes years’ worth of call and text data, including whether each call was ‘incoming,’ ‘outgoing’ or ‘missed,’ the date and time of each call, the number dialed, the individual called, and the duration of each call,” the plaintiffs say in the 21-page complaint, filed Tuesday in San Francisco. “Facebook then incorporates these data into its profile on each user, which it monetizes for advertising purposes.”

The Android users base their claims on a report by Ars Technica late last week highlighting the experiences of a New Zealand man who downloaded his Facebook data file and found out the social media giant had a record of every call he’d ever made, metadata relating to his text messaging and his entire contact list past and present – despite the fact he never used the Facebook app for any of these services.

Tuesday’s suit, like many recent news reports, focuses on the nexus between Facebook’s business model and that of Google, which develops the Android operating system.

Both companies compile user data and then build consumer profiles and sell them to companies for the purposes of targeted advertising.

“Together, these companies comprise more than 60 percent of online advertising sales in the United States,” the plaintiffs said.

Zuckerberg apologized late last week as criticism of his company intensified, calling it a “major breach of trust.”

The Facebook CEO has also been summoned by a United Kingdom parliamentary committee investigating how social media is being used or misused in elections, a request he declined.

Cambridge Analytica was also active in the Brexit campaign, working for the side campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union.

While Cambridge Analytica denies using the obtained Facebook data, it suspended its CEO Alexander Nix after he appeared to be caught bribing public officials on video footage released last week.

The maker of the app at the heart of the firestorm, Alexsandr Kogan, says he is being scapegoated by both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.

Facebook has seen its stock value plummet as a result of the scandal, losing more than 20 percent of its value so far. The social media giant also faces at least one lawsuit by investors over the scandal.

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