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House committee leaders call on Facebook CEO to testify at data scandal hearing

Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over consumer protection and data security, are calling on Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the committee in the wake of a scandal involving the mishandling of personal user data.

In a March 23 letter, Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and several other high-ranking committee members said they intend to hold a hearing examining "the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy." The hearing comes after Facebook disclosed March 16 that it had suspended the accounts of British company Strategic Communication Laboratories and its political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica LLC, among others, for violating the platform's personal data policies. Facebook said it learned that data voluntarily provided to a personality test app created by University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan had been improperly passed on to third parties including Cambridge Analytica, which does work for political, government and military clients around the globe.

In the wake of the disclosure, Facebook sent staff to Capitol Hill to answer lawmakers' questions about the data leaks, but the House Energy and Commerce leaders said many of their questions remain unanswered even after that briefing. Looking forward to the future hearing, they said Zuckerberg is the "right person to testify before Congress" about Facebook's business model and the access to user information Facebook provides to third parties.

The representatives did not give a date for the planned hearing but said it will be in the "near future."

Although Zuckerberg initially did not comment publicly on the data scandal, the CEO wrote in a March 21 Facebook post that his company had made mistakes regarding user privacy and outlined various steps Facebook plans to take to restore users' trust. These include more transparency about which apps have access to individual users' data and more limitations on how much data is accessible to app developers from the start.