Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rather begrudgingly said he may testify before Congress over the Cambridge Analytica data protection scandal that has knocked 10% off Facebook’s value.
The Facebook CEO is hedging on the question of whether he’s the best person in the organization to testify. “What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge. If that’s me, then I am happy to go,” he told CNN.
It’s not just Congress that wants Zuckerberg to show up to testify—something he’s never done before. The British Parliament has also summoned him to explain himself to its media committee, while the European Parliament has “invited” him to “clarify before the representatives of 500 million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy.”
Zuckerberg’s assertion that he might not have the best overview of the situation is somewhat surprising. As Recode’s Kara Swisher noted when writing up her interview: “Note to Mark: You are the right and only person to speak for Facebook at this point in the controversy.”
The controversy is about 50 million Facebook users’ data being surreptitiously passed to the right-wing political consultancy Cambridge Analytica in 2014. Facebook learned of the data abuse in 2015, when it sought assurances from Cambridge Analytica and the academic Aleksandr Kogan (who harvested the data) that the data had been deleted.
However, it didn’t tell the affected users about the incident, as it did not classify what happened as a breach, which would in some jurisdictions demand public disclosure. According to last weekend’s reports, Cambridge Analytica did not delete the data as it had promised.
Zuckerberg didn’t say anything at all about the scandal until Wednesday, leading to a popular #WheresZuck hashtag. He broke his silence with a Facebook post in which he apologized and promised to give users new ways to control where their Facebook data goes.
That will be a tricky tightrope to walk, as user data is Facebook’s bread and butter. Nonetheless, the company will have to step up its game due to the impending introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May—so its attempt to comply with that sweeping reform may end up also being dressed up as its response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.