Facebooks data breach fallout continues as Zuckerberg refuses to go before UK MPs

The repercussions from the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal rumble on. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has refused to appear before a select committee inquiry into fake news. The request came from Conservative politician Damian Collins. Instead, Zuckerberg has offered up chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer and chief product officer, Chris Cox.

Collins’ request was met by a note from Rebecca Simon, Facebooks head of public policy in the UK, who wrote: “Facebook fully recognises the level of public and Parliamentary interest in these issues and support (sic) your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position to answer your questions. As such, Mr. Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available to give evidence in person to the Committee.”

Simon’s letter to Collins was reproduced in full by Bloomberg reporter Joe Mayes in a tweet:

Collins himself released a statement in which he said:

“Facebook has got many questions to answer that their executives have failed to answer in previous appearances before our Committee. As Mark Zuckerbergs deputy we hope that Chris Cox has the sufficient authority and operational responsibility to concretely answer these questions. 

“Given the seriousness of these issues we still believe that Mark Zuckerberg is the right person to give evidence, and would like him to confirm if he will make himself available to the Committee. He stated in interviews that if he is the right person to appear he will appear. We think he is the right person and look forward to hearing from him.”

While unwilling to face UK politicians, Zuckerberg is, however, apparently prepared to go before the US congress. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has invited Zuckerberg, together with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, to a hearing on data privacy on April 10. A report on CNN Money quotes “Facebook sources” as saying that Zuckerberg has come to terms with the fact that he will have to testify, such is the pressure on him to do so. 

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that Facebook is planning to delay previewing its smart speaker products to developers because of the strength of public feeling against the company in the light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The report says that Facebook has shelved plans to unveil the products at its F8 developer conference in May, but that they are still on target for an autumn 2018 launch.

Facebook is also facing a class action from three Facebook Messenger users. Reuters reports that they have sued Facebook, saying the social network violated their privacy by collecting logs of their phone calls and text messages.  The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Northern District of California, seeks status as a class action on behalf of all affected users and asks for unspecified damages.

Finally, Playboy has revealed that it is exiting Facebook. In a statement, it acknowledged that it had been difficult for it to express its values on Facebook due to the platforms strict content and policy guidelines, and that it had had to alter Playboys voice in order to meet Facebooks views of what is and is not appropriate on its platform.

But the statement went on to say that recent events had made it question the value of doing so, saying: “The recent news about Facebooks alleged mismanagement of users data has solidified our decision to suspend our activity on the platform at this time. There are more than 25 million fans who engage with Playboy via our various Facebook pages, and we do not want to be complicit in exposing them to the reported practices. That is why we have announced that we will be leaving Facebooks platform, deactivating the Playboy accounts that Playboy Enterprises manages directly.

“Playboy has always stood for personal freedom and the celebration of sex. Today we take another step in that ongoing fight.”