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House commerce panel leaders want Zuckerberg to testify

WASHINGTON  — The leaders of a key House committee declared Thursday that Facebook officials failed to answer questions about a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining company, and they want CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the panel.

Reps. Greg Walden of Oregon and Frank Pallone of New Jersey said in a brief statement that the "latest revelations regarding Facebook's use and security of user data raise many serious consumer protection concerns."

Representatives from Facebook, who weren't named, briefed the committee's staff Wednesday, according to Walden and Pallone. But a spokeswoman for the committee said the session left many unanswered questions about how Facebook and third-party developers use and protect consumer data on the social media network.

Walden is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Pallone is the panel's top ranking Democrat. Their statement comes a day after Zuckerberg said during an interview on CNN he would be "happy" to testify before Congress, but only if he was the right person to do that. He said there might be other Facebook officials better positioned to appear, depending on what Congress wanted to know.

Walden and Pallone said that as Facebook's top executive, Zuckerberg is indeed the "right witness to provide answers to the American people." They said they would work with Facebook and Zuckerberg to set a date and time for a hearing in the near future.

Their call represents the first official request from a congressional oversight committee for Zuckerberg's appearance amid demands by lawmakers that Facebook explain reports that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users in order to sway elections.

That company, funded in part by Trump supporter and Long Island billionaire financier Robert Mercer, paired its vault of consumer data with voter information. The Trump campaign paid the firm nearly $6 million during the 2016 election, although it has since distanced itself.

The data was gathered through a personality test app called "This Is Your Digital Life" that was downloaded by fewer than 200,000 people. But participants unknowingly gave researchers access to the profiles of their Facebook friends, allowing them to collect data from millions more users.

Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee sent Zuckerberg a letter Monday that said the possibility that Facebook has not been transparent with consumers is troubling. They asked for responses by next week to a series of questions, including whether Facebook is aware of any other instances in which a third-party app developer used or shared Facebook user data improperly.

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