UK’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, chaired by Damian Collins (who is a member of Parliament), demanded that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg be present for questioning in regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The call came after the committee interviewed Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mike Schroepfer, who, apparently, “fell short” on the majority of the questions the committee asked.
UK Vs U.S. Cambridge Analytica Hearings
In the previous two U.S. hearings, American lawmakers could hardly ask two or three questions before their time ran out. Zuckerberg’s response time was also included in the 4-5 minutes the politicians got, which means the responses were typically quite canned and not very elaborated, while the lawmakers didn’t have much room for follow-up questions.
In the UK hearings on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, things have been different. The media committee members have been able to ask however many questions they liked of the witnesses, they could follow-up on any questions, and they didn’t typically allow the witnesses to get away with short canned answers, especially if they felt the responses weren’t good enough.
From the three main hearings so far, to which Cristopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica scandal whistleblower, and Aleksandr Kogan, the University of Cambridge professor, were also invited, Facebook’s CTO was probably grilled the most, getting multiple follow-up questions each time.
Facebook Didn’t Read Kogan’s ToS
Facebook has said before, and its CTO re-iterated, that the company asked for written confirmation that Cambridge Analytica deleted the data it got from users in 2014. However, the UK committee pointed out that Facebook failed to notify both users and authorities, such as the Information Commissioner Office (ICO), that the breach happened.
During this conversation between Schroepfer and the UK lawmakers, Schroepfer also said the company asks third-party developers to have a proper Terms of Service (ToS). However, Schroepfer noted that no one at Facebook had read the ToS for the app built by Kogan, even though the company was collaborating with him on other academic projects at the time.
This is quite ironic considering that whenever someone points out that Facebook is collecting too much data, or data that users aren’t expecting the company to collect, Facebook keeps coming back to the fact that the users “agreed” to share that data with Facebook when they clicked Continue on a ToS the company knows the users will never read.
Facebook Will Look Into Palantir’s Use Of Facebook Data
Palantir, a relatively secretive company that builds digital surveillance tools for the U.S. government and was co-founded by Facebook board member Peter Thiel, has been accused of using Cambridge Analytica’s harvested data, too. One of its top executives has also been accused of working directly with Cambridge Analytica, which Palantir confirmed.
When Zuckerberg apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he assured everyone that the company would investigate and audit any other company that may have been abusing its policies or harvesting data the way Cambridge Analytica did.
We’ve asked Facebook whether or not it will investigate Palantir, too, after the accusations against Palantir came out, but we received no reply at the time. Facebook’s CTO seems to have been a little more responsive to the UK lawmakers’ similar question, saying that “many people have raised that concern” about Palantir, and that Facebook also plans to review Palantir’s practices. We’ll be waiting for the results of that investigation and keep you updated.
Majority Of Facebook CTO’s Answers “Unsatisfactory”
The UK media committee Chairman, Collins, said the majority of Schroepfer’s responses about Facebook’s policies and how it protects user data against companies such as Cambridge Analytica were unsatisfactory. Therefore, he's asked Zuckerberg to present himself before the committee on May 24, just before Zuckerberg will also face questions from the European Parliament:
Mr Schroepfer, Mark Zuckerberg’s right hand man whom we were assured could represent his views, today failed to answer many specific and detailed questions about Facebook’s business practices. We will be asking him to respond in writing to the committee on these points; however, we are mindful that it took a global reputational crisis and three months for the company to follow up on questions we put to them in Washington D.C. on February 8th.We believe that, given the large number of outstanding questions for Facebook to answer, Mark Zuckerberg should still appear in front of the Committee. We note, in particular, reports that he intends to travel to Europe in May to give evidence to the European Parliament, and will request that he appears in front of the DCMS Committee before the 24th May.
Collins also made it clear that this is not just another request (Zuckerberg declined the previous invitation). If Zuckerberg fails to comply, the committee will issue a formal summons for him, which means the next time Zuckerberg will visit the UK, he will be obligated to come before the UK committee, by law.