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Data leak puts Facebook under intensifying scrutiny on two continents

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Lawmakers in the United States and Britain demanded on Sunday that Facebook explain how a political data firm with links to US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was able to harvest private data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without the social network alerting those whose information was taken.

[WASHINGTON] Lawmakers in the United States and Britain demanded on Sunday that Facebook explain how a political data firm with links to US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was able to harvest private data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without the social network alerting those whose information was taken.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went so far as to demand that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, appear before her panel to explain "what Facebook knew about misusing data from 50 million Americans in order to target political advertising and manipulate voters."

The calls followed reports on Saturday in The New York Times and The Observer of London that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm founded by Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, had used the Facebook data to develop methods that it claimed could identify the personalities of individual US voters and influence their behavior. The firm's so-called psychographic modeling underpinned its work for the Trump campaign in 2016, though many have questioned the effectiveness of its techniques.

But Facebook did not inform users whose data had been harvested. The lack of disclosure could violate laws in Britain and in many U.S. states.

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In Britain, Damian Collins, a Conservative lawmaker who is leading a parliamentary inquiry into fake news and Russian meddling in Britain's referendum to leave the European Union, said this weekend that he would call Facebook back to testify. But, Mr Collins said, this time he would insist that the social media giant send Zuckerberg or a senior executive to appear.

"It is not acceptable that they have previously sent witnesses who seek to avoid answering difficult questions by claiming not to know the answers," Mr Collins said in a statement.

In the United States, the attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, announced Saturday that her office was opening an investigation.

Also Saturday, the two top congressional Democrats leading inquiries into Russian interference in the 2016 election - Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Representative Adam Schiff of California - called for investigations of the Facebook data leak.

NYTIMES