WASHINGTON, D.C. — Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was tapped on Monday to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee over allegations that his social media platform obtained private information on more than 50 million Facebook users and shared the information without the users’ consent.
“Facebook breach: This is a major breach that must be investigated. It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves. I’ve called for more transparency & accountability for online political ads. They say ‘trust us.’ Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced on Twitter.
Klobuchar’s call comes in response to findings that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm, obtained the private information from Facebook for use in the 2016 presidential election.
In a letter sent to Senator Chuck Grassley (R)- Iowa, on Monday, Klobuchar and John Kennedy (R)- Lousiana, said they have “serious concern regarding recent reports that data from millions of American was misused in order to influence voters.”
“The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights,” the senators wrote. A hearing with the CEOs would allow the committee to learn “what is being done to protect Americans’ data and limit abuse of the platforms, as well as to assess what measures should be taken before the next elections.”
The revelations are just the latest in a series of bad press the social media giant has received of late, following demands from both U.S. and European officials for Zuckerberg to account for how personal information regarding millions of users ended up in the hands of the data analysis firm.
“I would not be surprised if at some point the FTC looks at this. I would expect them to,” said David Vladeck, former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection told The Chicago Times.
The law permits fines up to $40,000 per violation, Vladeck added. With a reported 50 million people affected, he said, the “maximum exposure” could reach into the billions of dollars.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says Facebook’s alleged collusion with Cambridge Analytica is alone enough justification to pass the Honest Ads Act, a bill that, if passed, would hold internet platforms like Facebook and Twitter subject to similar political ad disclosure standards required for use by radio, TV and print media outlets.
“Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” Warner said in a released statement on Saturday. “This is another strong indication of the need for Congress to quickly pass the Honest Ads Act to bring transparency and accountability to online political advertisements.”
Meanwhile, the impact of Zuckerberg’s public relations nightmare is hitting the billionaire in the wallet.
As reported by Forbes, Facebook stock had plummeted nearly 7% by 1 pm Eastern Time on Monday, losing $37 billion of its market value. The decline hit Zuckerberg directly, with his net worth dropping $5.1 billion.
Zuckerberg, 33, founded Facebook in 2004 as a 19-year-old student at Harvard. He dropped out of college his sophomore year to focus full-time on development of the company.
Calls for statement from Zuckerberg’s representatives were met with, “no comment”.