Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has agreed for the first time since the company’s inception to speak before a congressional panel next week. After his initial silence regarding a data breach where Cambridge Analytica accessed the private data of some 50 million Facebook users, Zuckerberg will testify in response to pressures from lawmakers and the general public.
CNN reported that on April 11, the social media mogul is set to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. ET. Headed by Rep. Greg Walden, who is the committee chair, and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., who is a ranking member, the purpose of the hearing is to help Americans gain a better understanding of how their personal data is used online. More specifically, their goal is to explore Facebook’s “use and protection of user data” and to expose “consumer data privacy issues.”
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie revealed that the firm harvested profile data acquired through quiz apps and then used that information to influence voters during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. They tested users’ emotional responses to targeted ads to determine how to best manipulate public opinion in the digital realm. According to CNBC, Wylie testified before the U.K. parliament on March 27 calling the scheme “military-style information operations” that undermine the democratic process.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also examining Facebook’s privacy practices at the time of the data breach to determine whether the social media giant was in violation of a prior settlement agreement. The “non-public investigation,” led by acting director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Tom Pahl, stems from the outcome of a 2011 complaint, CNN Money reports.
The FTC required Facebook to obtain “express consent” from users before sharing their private data, including their friends lists, with third-party apps. The Cambridge Analytica scandal suggests that Facebook may not have complied.
With waning stock prices and a decrease in consumer confidence, Facebook executives are now speaking out about the data breach. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg addressed participants of the Facebook Community Boost workshop in Houston on Tuesday, according to the Houston Chronicle. Sandberg promised to fix the problems that have threatened user privacy. The COO also vowed to be more transparent in the coming days about their findings and their proposed solutions.