Facebook, Data Protection Commissioner to be called before Oireachtas Committee

Mark Zuckerburg is facing calls to appear before politicians in the EU and US

Updated: 14.50

The Oireachtas Communications Committee is set to call Facebook and the Data Protection Commissioner to appear before it over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The Green Party said the committee has agreed to its request.

It is expected the committee will consider the issue in mid-April.

It comes as oressure is building on Facebook's founder and chief executive over the alleged misuse of user data on the network.

Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to appear before the European Commission to explain how British firm Cambridge Analytica used data from 50 million of its users without permission.

The social media site is also being investigated by the US Federal Trade Commission - a consumer and competition watchdog.

The pressure comes after allegations that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Donald Trump's campaign team, used millions of Facebook profiles without authorisation to predict and influence the US election.

Personal data

According to Facebook, academic Aleksandr Kogan, separately from his work as a University of Cambridge professor, made a personality app that gathered data which he then sold on to third parties.

Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica when reports emerged that the data company did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared.

In a statement, it said: "The entire company is outraged we were deceived.

"We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens."

Facebook

Damian Collins, chair of a House of Commons culture committee in Britain, said: "Facebook was not deceived by Cambridge Analytica.

"They knew what they had done two years ago and only acted against them when it was reported in the press.

"Mark Zuckerberg needs to speak about this, but he won't even answer questions from his own employees."

Zuckerberg

Facebook held an open meeting for all employees following the allegations but it was chaired by the company's deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal rather than Mr Zuckerberg.

Mr Zuckerberg has not posted any message to his millions of followers on Facebook regarding the case.

The data privacy crisis facing Facebook has seen its shares and those in the wider US social media sector take a hit.

Facebook's own market value has now dropped by $50bn since the story broke, with a 7% fall in the share price on Monday followed by a 2.6% decline in the following day's trading.

Repurcussions

A lawsuit was filed in San Francisco on Tuesday by the first of what could be many shareholders who claim they have suffered losses because they were misled by the company about its ability to protect user data.

There could also be future lawsuits from users who had their personal information exposed.
Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica suspended its CEO Alexander Nix.

Comments Mr Nix made to an undercover reporter for Britain's Channel 4 News and other allegations of wrongdoing were cited as reasons for the action by the company's board.
His suspension is effective immediately while his actions are investigated.

The firm said Mr Nix's statements "do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view the violation."

Ireland a 'key player'

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that, given Ireland's position as a base for large tech multinationals, it will be a 'key player' in the regulation of data protection.

"I have asked the chair of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, Hildegarde Naughton, to bring representatives from Facebook and the Data Protection Commissioner before the committee in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

"I’m glad that my request has been agreed. While the activities carried out by Cambridge Analytica were outside this jurisdiction, Ireland’s position as a base and hub for tech multi-nationals puts us at the heart of this issue.

"Ireland must lead the way on data protection, and in how online activity, particularly advertising, is regulated. Having Facebook and the Data Protection Commissioner in to explain their role in this situation, and to see how we can proceed from here, will be very useful."