Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided that he will travel to Washington, D.C., in the next few weeks to testify at upcoming congressional hearings in the wake of a user-data scandal that has roiled the company, CNN reported, citing anonymous sources.
A Facebook spokesman declined to confirm that Zuckerberg will appear before Congress. The company has received several invitations and is in talks with legislators about next steps.
Facebook remains in damage-control mode after news broke about user data that was obtained illicitly by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that was contracted to work on Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and reportedly used the Facebook data to target voters. U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica got its hands on information about some 50 million users — without their knowledge or consent.
On Monday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley invited Zuckerberg, as well as Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, to appear at an April 10 hearing on data privacy.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg turned down a request by the U.K.’s House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee for him to appear before its Fake News inquiry to explain the Cambridge Analytica situation and how social-media firms are using data for political ad targeting.
In an interview with CNN last Wednesday, Zuckerberg — asked if he will testify before Congress — said, “I’m happy to, if it’s the right thing to do.” He added, “Facebook testifies in Congress regularly on a number of topics, some high profile and some not. And our objective is always to provide Congress, who does an extremely important job, to have the most information that they can.”
On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission officially announced the launch of a “non-public” investigation into Facebook’s data-privacy practices. Specifically, the agency is looking at whether the company violated a 2011 consent decree requiring user consent for sharing data. Facebook faces potential fines of $40,000 per user for violations of the FTC agreement, which could amount to a massive monetary penalty.
Zuckerberg last week issued a statement about the company’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica case, and subsequently made select media appearances after several days out of the public eye. He apologized for the “breach of trust” with users and outlined actions the company has already taken and intends to make.