Thursday 24 May 2018

Google, Twitter face congress grilling

Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AP
Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AP

Steven T Dennis and Billy House

The chief executives of Google and Twitter may be next to follow Mark Zuckerberg into a gauntlet of congressional hearings.

US Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said he's considering another public hearing on data privacy and spoke with representatives of Google last week, suggesting the company send CEO Sundar Pichai to answer questions.

"I've told them I'd like to have them come in and talk to us about data privacy and maybe some of the other social media platforms as well," Thune said in an interview. "It'll help to really know what they're doing, and it'll help and instruct what we might be thinking about doing. We haven't scheduled anything yet, but we're having conversations with them."

Facebook boss Zuckerberg spent about 10 hours over two days this month answering a barrage of questions from lawmakers in House and Senate hearings triggered by revelations that a British firm with ties to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign harvested information from as many as 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge. The use of the data by Cambridge Analytica has prompted questions about internet privacy and calls for potential government regulation to protect personal data.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, who originally sought to schedule all three major social media company CEOs before Zuckerberg became the focus of the inquiries, said this week he may seek testimony from Pichai and Twitter's Jack Dorsey. He sent them letters the day of the Zuckerberg hearing asking about their data privacy practices and actions to counter foreign interference in US elections. He told them he wanted answers by April 25. Representatives of Google and Twitter declined to comment.

Grassley and Thune, whose committees jointly questioned Zuckerberg, have said they also will continue to probe Cambridge Analytica's alleged diversion of millions of Facebook profiles for political use.

"We're getting some more information from Facebook about other analytics firms that they did business with, and they're trying to quantify what that universe is and then we'll probably look at that whole issue with Cambridge and perhaps some other firms," Thune said.

Grassley said he still plans a public hearing on Cambridge Analytica.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr also plans a hearing featuring the technology companies in a few months as his panel wraps up a report on Russia's use of social media to influence US politics.

Bloomberg

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