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Mark Zuckerberg refuses to appear before Parliamentary select committee investigating Facebook data practices

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has refused a request to give evidence to a Parliamentary select committee over the alleged abuse of Facebook users’ data. 

Last week, it emerged that London-based marketing firm Cambridge Analytica had gained unauthorised access to more than 50 million Facebook accounts – 30 million of them in the US – and used this as the basis for online political campaigns. 

It claimed that its technology could target individual voters with tailored messages using “pyschographic microtargetting”. However, critics of the company have suggested that the company’s claims are largely nonsense

While Facebook has promised to get to the bottom of the situation and to improve users’ data privacy, there has been mounting pressure for the firm’s CEO to travel to the UK to explain the company’s practices to MPs. 

But today, the company revealed that Zuckerberg wouldn’t be appearing and would instead send a lucky senior executive to face the MPs.

Damian Collins, who manages the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, had written a letter to the company calling on Zuckerberg to attend a hearing.

“It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process. There is a strong public interest test regarding user protection,” he wrote.

“Accordingly we are sure you will understand the need for a representative from right at the top of the organisation to address concerns.”

Facebook has since replied, confirming that either chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer or chief product officer Chris Cox will attend the meeting in Zuckerberg’s place.

They have both worked at Facebook for more than ten years, making them veterans. The executives ought to have a detailed understanding of the situation.

Rebecca Stimson, head of UK public policy at Facebook, penned the letter. She said the company would cooperate with Parliament on its investigation, but failed to explain why Zuckerberg would not attend.

“Facebook fully recognises the level of public and Parliamentary interest in these issues and support your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position to answer your questions,” she said.

“As such Mr Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available to give evidence to the Committee.”

Zuckerberg has, however, since released a statement apologising on behalf of Facebook for the data debacle.

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