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Lawmakers call on Facebook to testify on Cambridge Analytica data misuse

Last Updated Mar 21, 2018 4:06 PM EDT

Republican and Democratic senators on Capitol Hill are calling on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to provide information about Cambridge Analytica's alleged misuse of data from Facebook's users. According to Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie, the firm, which was hired by Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, harvested data from approximately 50 million Facebook users' for political purposes.   

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said Facebook should testify before a Senate committee to explain why Facebook users weren't aware that their personal data was being exploited.

"It's important for Americans," Rubio said. "Facebook is something that touches a lot of Americans, and the notion that not just your information, but analytic information about people who are your friends on Facebook is also being shared is something that the vast majority of users were not aware was a possibility."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, specifically called on Zuckerberg to appear before a Senate committee to provide evidence.

"Wouldn't it be great for him to show up like most Americans do when asked to testify as to the practices of his company?" Durbin said. "He can make millions of dollars in the United States and around the world but at least he ought to respect our laws."

When asked why he thinks Zuckerberg hasn't been forthcoming, Durbin challenged the Facebook CEO, saying, "He's afraid. There's obviously some information there that he doesn't want to bring out publicly." Durbin added, "He can prove me wrong and show up when we get back from the Easter recess."

Both Rubio and Durbin said Zuckerberg should be subpoenaed if he isn't willing to provide information to lawmakers.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, who used Cambridge Analytica in 2014 when he was running for his Senate seat, said he had "limited interaction" with the London-based firm and doesn't know if his campaign benefitted from the data breach.

"I've had my campaign team look into it," Tillis noted. "It was a relatively small part of the most expensive race in the country at the time. So like I said we think it's a minimum influence but we're looking at it."

On a broader note, Tillis explained that data misuse and user privacy rights goes beyond Cambridge Analytica and needs to be examined across all social media platforms.

"I've had my campaign team look into it," Tillis noted. "It was a relatively small part of the most expensive race in the country at the time. So like I said we think it's a minimum influence but we're looking at it."

On Wednesday afternoon, Zuckerberg posted on Facebook a timeline of events regarding the misuse of users' data and the steps the company needs to take to further secure their platform from data abuse.

Some of the steps include an investigation into apps that had access to personal information, along with an audit of apps "with suspicious activity." Zuckerberg issued a warning to developers of apps that don't comply with an audit.

"We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit," Zuckerberg said. "And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps."

He also explained that if an app developer abuses personal information, Facebook would notify people if their data was affected. Zuckerberg also said this includes the users that Cambridge Analytica harvested.

Zuckerberg also admitted some blame for the data misuse, saying, "I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I'm responsible for what happens on our platform."

"We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," Zuckerberg added. "I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Reaction from senators and Zuckerberg come a day after Wylie said he would testify and provide documents relating to Cambridge Analytica's misuse of Facebook data before the House Intelligence Committee.