UK government demands presence of Facebook's Zuckerberg at hearing

It is only an invitation, but one that the Facebook CEO should not ignore.

The UK government has reiterated a request for Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to attend a hearing on fake news and data privacy, on pain of receiving a formal summons if he should refuse.

Zuckerberg is currently at the F8 developer conference in San Jose, California. However, the Facebook chief is due to visit Europe later this month to give evidence on the rising spread of fake news -- and UK officials want London included in the trip itinerary.

In a letter sent on Tuesday (.PDF) by the UK Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee's MP Damian Collins to Rebecca Stimson, the head of Facebook's public policy at the UK press office, Collins once again re-issued the invitation, which has previously appeared to have been ignored.

Zuckerberg has been asked to appear for a session on 24 May.

While at this moment in time it is only an invitation, it is not one that the Facebook chief should ignore, especially considering his user base in the country.

"It is worth noting that, while Mr. Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK parliament, he will do so the next time he enters the country," Collins says. "We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but if not the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK."

In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technical Officer at Facebook, appeared in front of the committee this week to answer questions from UK regulators on advertising, metadata collection, and social network interference in the world of politics.

However, Collins believes that the evidence offered by Schroepfer "lacked many of the important details we need."

The committee believes many questions went unanswered and so would like the Facebook CEO to address them personally.

Some of the most interesting questions are listed below:

  • What is the percentage of sites on the internet on which Facebook tracks users?
  • How many developers did your enforcement team at Facebook take action against between 2011-2014?
  • Who was the person at Facebook responsible for the decision not to tell users affected in 2015?
  • How many clicks or swipes does it take to alter your Facebook privacy settings on a smartphone? What steps are you taking to reduce the lengthy process of changing one's privacy settings?
  • What proportion of political campaigning ads globally are run on your platform? Do you have a rough estimate, based on average political campaign spend data?
  • How much money has been made from fraudulent ads? When you find out they have been fraudulent, do you return the money to the purchaser of the ads?

See also: Adjust these Facebook privacy settings to protect your personal data | Mark Zuckerberg's plea to developers at F8: Keep building with us | Facebook is updating Workplace to move it beyond collaboration | Facebook launches Clear History feature that should have been there all along | Facebook's new court defeat: This time it 'may have free speech implications'

Facebook has been given until 11 May to respond to the invitation.

"There are over 40 million Facebook users in the UK and they deserve to hear accurate answers from the company he created and whether it is able to keep their users' data safe," the letter states. "We look forward to receiving your answers by 11 May. We would like confirmation of Mr. Zuckerberg's attendance by the same date."

In related news at the F8 developer conference, Zuckerberg outlined a new feature called "Clear History."

Similar to deleting browser cookies, the executive said that users will be able to see information about the apps and websites they have interacted with and clear this information from your account -- or turn off the storage of this data, to begin with.

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