Data row: Facebook's Zuckerberg will not appear before MPs

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook boss Image copyright Getty Images

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he will not appear before MPs investigating fake news, but will send one of his senior executives instead.

The tech giant and data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica are at the centre of a dispute over harvesting personal data and whether it was used in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign.

Mr Zuckerberg has apologised for a “breach of trust”.

His stand-in will give evidence to MPs after the Easter Parliamentary break.

Chairman of the Department for Culture Media and Sport select committee Damian Collins said Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, who reports directly to Mr Zuckerberg, would give evidence in the first week after the Easter break but he still hoped Mr Zuckerberg would do so too.

Over the weekend, Mr Zuckerberg took out full-page advertisements in several UK and US Sunday newspapers to apologise.

He said his company could have done more to stop millions of users having their data exploited by Cambridge Analytica.

“This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry,” the back-page ads said.

The select committee is currently hearing from whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who accused his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, of gathering the details of 50 million users on Facebook through a personality quiz in 2014.

He alleges that because 270,000 people took the quiz, the data of some 50 million users, mainly in the US, was harvested without their explicit consent via their friend networks.

Mr Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them.

Cambridge Analytica denies any of it was used as part of the services it provided to the Trump campaign.

On Friday, enforcement officers from the UK’s information commissioner carried out a seven-hour search of Cambridge Analytica’s London offices after the High Court granted the data watchdog a warrant.

MPs have also written to Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s suspended chief executive officer, to ask him to return before the committee after his previous appearance in February.

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