Facebook’s founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, will testify before the U.S. Congress to explain how private information from 50 million users fell into the hands of a political consultancy, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The announcement comes after a former Cambridge Analytica employee revealed a British information company had improperly accessed data from Facebook to target not only U.S. and UK voters, but also social media users across Latin America ahead of national elections.
Facebook has been invited to testify before British parliamentary committee and the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, though Zuckerberg declined to speak with parliament, sending one of his technology and product officials instead, Reuters reports.
Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, said on Monday that Canadian company AggregateIQ had developed the software that used the algorithms from the Facebook data to target Republican voters in the 2016 U.S. election.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Monday it had invited Zuckerberg, as well as the CEOs of Alphabet Inc and Twitter Inc to testify at an April 10 hearing on data privacy.
While the analytical company’s Chief Data Officer Dr. Alex Tayler and Managing Director Mark Turnbull told an undercover Channel 4 journalist that the company has been working in Mexico and was now targeting Brazil, among other countries.
"If you're collecting data on people and you're profiling them, that gives you more insight that you can use to know how to segment the population, give them messaging about issues they care about, and language and imagery they're likely to engage with," Tayler said, adding that the practice has been exercised in Brazil, Australia, Africa, China, and Mexico.
Brazilian prosecutors on Wednesday opened an investigation into whether the London-based political consultancy acted illegally in Brazil, as the controversy over the firm's data harvesting practices spread across the globe.
Cambridge Analytica's vice president told Bloomberg last year that a partnership was formed with a phone application named Pig.gi which was transparently designed to influence the votes of younger Mexicans — as Mexico's general election is due on July 1.
According to a map published on Cambridge's website, the company has also operated in Guyana, Peru and Argentina, although little information is available about the extent of the operations.