Damian Collins, the chairman of the British House of Commons’ culture, media and sport select committee, has announced that he would be asking Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix to give further testimony before the committee, after the Observer revealed details of a data breach that appears to have affected 50 million people.
Whistle-blower Chris Wylie has claimed that 50 million Facebook profiles, mostly American, were harvested for Analytica and used to build a system to influence voters.
Last month, both Facebook and Nix told a British parliamentary committee inquiry into fake news that they did not collaborate to use private Facebook data. But, in a statement on March 16 explaining the suspension of Analytica and Wylie, Facebook said it had known in 2015 that profiles were passed to Analytica.
“In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our platform policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica,” the statement said. Facebook has since suspended Kogan, with whom it used to work, too.
The Facebook breaches has caused outrage in the United States and Britain.
“We need to hear from people who can speak about Facebook from a position of authority that requires them to know the truth,” Collins said. “Someone has to take responsibility for this. It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page.”
The MP said the company previously appeared to have sent executives who were able to avoid difficult questions and “claimed not to know the answers”.
“It is now clear that data has been taken from Facebook users without their consent and was then processed by a third party and used to support their campaigns,” Collins said. “Facebook knew about this and the involvement of Cambridge Analytica with it.”
Facebook denies the harvesting of millions of profiles by Analytica was a data breach. Analytica said: “We don’t use or hold Facebook data. When we learned that GSR (Kogan’s company) sold us Facebook data that it shouldn’t have done, we deleted it all – system wide audit to verify.”