Anyone who thought that having a Tory MP chairing the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee would mean it went a little easier on the media were disabused of that notion today when current incumbent Damian Collins informed Facebook’s top table that he and his fellow MPs would like them to pop round to Portcullis House for a chat.
Damian Collins MP
Collins has worked in the PR and communications industry himself. And although the formidable presence of Tom Watson is no longer part of the panel that the Facebook folks will face, there is still longstanding member Paul Farrelly, along with City of Chester MP Chris Mathieson, who will be more than pleased to see them.
So who would the MPs like to see? Collins has answered that one by telling “I have today written to @facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on him to give oral evidence to @CommonsCMS following recent reports in @guardian and @nytimes”. And the contents of his letter to Zuck should put the proverbial fear of God into him.
“The Committee has repeatedly asked Facebook about how companies acquire and hold on to user data from their site, and in particular about whether data had been taken without their consent. Your officials’ answers have consistently understated this risk, and have been misleading to the Committee [he means they lied] … It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process”. And who might that senior executive be?
“We are sure you will understand the need for a representative from right at the top of the organisation to address concerns. Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to ‘fixing’ Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you”. WALLOP!
And, just to ensure all concerned know that Collins means business, he has also told “I am also pleased to announce that @CommonsCMS will be taking evidence from former Facebook operations manager Sandy Parakilas tomorrow by video link, at 3pm in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House. This will be available to watch live at http://parliamentlive.tv”. The great Liberal leader might just have approved.
Looks like it wasn't just this lot benefiting
What might await Zuckerberg can be gleaned from a Guardian piece about Parakilas, tomorrow’s interviewee. “'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine … Sandy Parakilas says numerous companies deployed these techniques - likely affecting hundreds of millions of users - and that Facebook looked the other way”. Plus the Commons is not the only body wanting a little chat.
We know this as Guy Verhofstadt has declared “When is Mark Zuckerberg going to explain what happened with our data? The data breach is an absolute scandal. The European Parliament must start an investigation. I will keep you updated about our progress”. So Zuck might as well add Brussels and Strasbourg to his itinerary.
And a word of warning: if Zuckerberg, or anyone else from Facebook, thinks that just rocking up and spewing corporate bullshit is going to get him through his grilling, he has another think coming. He tries that, he’ll be torn to shreds.
What was that about this being a “non-story”? And there’s lots more to come.