Facebook is to blame for the data scandal: UK lawmaker

Damian Collins, chairman of U.K. House of Commons' digital culture and sport committee poses for a photograph outside the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Damian Collins, chairman of U.K. House of Commons’ digital culture and sport committee poses for a photograph outside the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

Facebook is to blame for the data scandal that has engulfed the social media giant, U.K. lawmaker Damian Collins told CNBC on Wednesday.

“This is Facebook’s responsibility,” he said on “Closing Bell.”

Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Facebook ads for the Trumpcampaign, is accused of improperly gaining access to 50 million profiles before the 2016 election. Cambridge Analytica has called the allegations “false” and on Tuesday the board suspended CEO Alexander Nix.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence on the issue in a lengthy post on the social media platformWednesday afternoon.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he wrote.

“The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it,” added Zuckerberg.

Collins, chairman of the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has called Zuckerberg to testify in front of his panel. He sent a letter to the CEO on Tuesday requesting an “accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process.”

He said Facebook’s responses in the past “have massively understated the risk to users.”

In fact, the company first knew about the data collection in 2015 yet didn’t take any action against Cambridge Analytica until Friday, Collins contended.

Facebook has said that while the data was obtained by Cambridge Analytica legitimately, it said that the developer of the app that collected the data, Aleksandr Kogan, “lied” to the social media platform and violated its policies in transferring the data to Cambridge Analytica.

The company banned Kogan’s app in 2015 and ordered all parties he had given data to, including the consultancy, to destroy it.

“They had two years of knowing about it and didn’t at that time go to Cambridge Analytica and make sure that the data had been destroyed as they requested,” Collins said.

He said the committee was told in a hearing on Wednesday that “back in 2011, 2012 there were well-known concerns within the company” over potential misuse of user data.

Meanwhile, changes need to be made in the U.K. when it comes to regulating social media. Right now, regulators have the power to request data but don’t have the right to get access to data if a company doesn’t comply.

“We need someone who can go behind the curtain and look at the data sets and the algorithms of social media companies so that we can be sure they are complying with U.K. data protection law. We just can’t take their word of it that they are,” he said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Collins’ remarks.

— CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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