Categories: RegulationWorkspace

Parliament Says Facebook Answers Not Good Enough

The British parliamentary committee probing the data protection scandal in which Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are implicated has said the US social network has continued to leave “significant gaps” in answers it has provided to Parliament.

MPs had asked Facebook 39 questions following up on testimony last month by the firm’s chief technical officer, Mike Schroepfer, before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

In one answer, Facebook said more than 10 million web devices – 8.4 million “Like” buttons and 2.2 million invisible pixels – had tracked users’ browsing habits on third-party sites during a week in April.

It was the first time Facebook had made that infomation public.

Apps restricted

In another answer, Facebook said it had restricted data collection by 370,000 apps last year and rejected almost half the apps that applied for permission to collect data beyond basic options since 2014.

The company didn’t fully answer other questions, includng who was in charge when the company chose in 2015 not to disclose to users that it had discovered the leak, and who knew about the issue in February 2018, when the committee questioned Facebook before newspapers made the leak public in March.

Committee chair Damian Collins MP said it was “disappointing” that Facebook had not answered questions with a “sufficient level of detail and transparency”.

“Given that these were follow up questions to questions Mr. Schroepfer previously failed to answer, we expected both detail and data, and in a number of cases got excuses,” Collins wrote.

He called again for Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Parliament.

“If Mark Zuckerberg truly recognises the ‘seriousness’ of these issues as they say they do, we would expect that he would want to appear in front of the Committee and answer questions that are of concern not only to Parliament, but Facebook’s tens of millions of users in this country,” he said.

‘No plans’ to come to the UK

Zuckerberg has so far refused to provide testimony to the committee in person, and in her letter giving answers to the committee’s follow-up questions, Facebook head of public policy Rebecca Stimson reiterated that he “has no plans to meet with the committee or travel to the UK at the present time”.

In the letter, sent three days after the deadline set by Parliament to respond, Stimson said Facebook had already held “lengthy meetings or evidence sessions around the world” and had provided “a very significant amount of information” to Parliament.

“We are disappointed after providing a very significant amount of information… that the committee declared our response insufficient,” she wrote.

Collins said Zuckerberg was welcome to give evidence by video link and said the committee would follow up with Facebook to “address significant gaps” in the company’s answers.

Facebook said on Monday it had suspended 200 apps as part of its investigation into whether they collected user data improperly.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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