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House, Senate Committee Leaders Ask Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to Testify at Hearing

UPDATED WASHINGTON — House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders from both parties sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, calling for him to testify at an upcoming hearing in the wake of the scandal over how Cambridge Analytica accessed its user data.

Hours later, the two leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee followed with its own calls for Zuckerberg to testify before a hearing in their committee.

“In comments to the press, you stated that the person with the most knowledge at Facebook about what Congress is trying to learn is the appropriate witness for a congressional hearing,” the letter stated. “As the chief executive officer of Facebook and the employee who has been the leader of Facebook through all the key strategic decisions since its launch, you are the right person to testify before Congress about those decisions and the Facebook business model.”

The committee is planning a hearing in the “near future” to “examine the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy.” The group indicated that it would also explore “broader questions” of Facebook’s policies at the time it was launched and what it plans to do with user information in the future.

The letter was signed by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the committee, as well as its top Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Leaders of subcommittees on digital commerce and consumer protection, and communications and technology also signed.

A Facebook spokesman said they have received the letter and are reviewing the invitation.

Zuckerberg apologized for what happened in a blog post earlier this week, and said the site was going to strengthen its regulation of the apps it allows to collect user data.

In an interview with CNN, he said he would be willing to testify if he is the right person to do so.

“We see a small slice of activity on Facebook, but Congress gets to, you know, have access to the information across Facebook and all other companies and the intelligence community and everything,” he said. “So what we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge about what Congress is trying to learn. So if that’s me, then I am happy to go.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and its top Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, issued a statement on Friday that asked that Zuckerberg appear before the committee.

“On a bipartisan basis, we believe Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony is necessary to gain a better understanding of how the company plans to restore lost trust, safeguard users’ data, and end a troubling series of belated responses to serious problems,” they said. “We appreciate the efforts Facebook and its employees have already made to assist our committee and will work with them to find a suitable date for Mr. Zuckerberg to testify in the coming weeks.”

Facebook executives briefed congressional staffers on the ongoing controversy. It could be a prelude to some sort of legislative action on the protection of privacy data.

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