House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul demanded Mark Zuckerberg meet with him to explain Facebook’s new transparency policies on Thursday after the social network abruptly drew attention to nearly a dozen criminal cases involving Russian agents.
While Zuckerberg has said he wants people to connect to each other in some way on Facebook, the features he is rolling out on a test basis include a request to report “fake accounts” and other data reporting to the public.
The launch of the measures was abruptly cut short Wednesday when critics, including McCaul, of Texas, pointed out that even Facebook employees who had witnessed the new tool weren’t informed about it.FILE – In this Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, file photo, Mark Zuckerberg listens as he delivers a keynote address at the Max Planck Society conference in Munich, Germany. Facebook founder and CEO Facebook is hoping to be the largest company on Earth by volume, with a market value of some $640 billion, by the time it celebrates its 10th anniversary. But until Wednesday, Sept. 13, its scale was shrouded in uncertainty, and after so many high-profile revelations it’s facing mounting pressure. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)
“This is going to deal a severe blow to the regulatory climate here,” McCaul told reporters on a conference call about the weekend data breach involving Facebook’s data-sharing subsidiary that prompted lawmakers to demand congressional hearings.
“They have no other option but to meet with me,” McCaul said, expressing concern that the social media giant was not calling ahead of Thursday’s scheduled meeting with him and other lawmakers.
Facebook has faced a mixed response to its social media experiments that exposed people’s friends’ personal information, including names, email addresses and phone numbers. Privacy advocates said the company was able to keep the information for up to a year while seeing little effect on public engagement.
But U.S. Senators from both parties have demanded hearings on what they believe was the harm to children who have been exposed to the experiments.
McCaul also warned that Facebook may soon face a lawsuit over whether it was covered by a federal law that requires companies to disclose when the Justice Department alleges a crime is occurring. But he dismissed that argument and called for justice for the millions affected by the Cambridge Analytica data leak.
Among other things, he said Facebook had assured lawmakers it would completely limit the collection of user data over email and introduce a two-factor authentication system to access its platform.
“The main thing we should be talking about from a privacy standpoint is you can’t just react to a data breach like this and just laugh,” he said.
Separately, he said he would not block any legislation that would limit Facebook’s privacy practices.
“I hope you can respect your sovereignty, respect your First Amendment rights,” McCaul said. “I don’t really mean that we will never repeal it. We don’t need to repeal all parts of it. But I just think that if we’re going to have these constitutional debates and debates about the constitution, the arguments have to be made under the law and be just.”