As the complex political scandal around Facebook users’ personal data grows, it is time for the man who invented the social media site in his university bedroom 14 years ago and now has a dominant role in billions of lives to explain himself.
The company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to give evidence to a parliamentary inquiry in the wake of claims that a ‘data grab’ of the private information of 50 million Facebook users by political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) had not been destroyed as agreed.
But the issue goes much further than CA, which also faces allegations it offered to entrap politicians and used ex-spies to dig for dirt on potential targets; the Information Commissioner is now investigating more widely the use of personal data for political campaigns.
Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has accused Facebook of “misleading” previous hearings about whether information had been taken without users’ consent and demanding a senior company executive now answers the questions of MPs.
Mr Collins has made clear he hopes that representative is Mr Zuckerberg; an invitation he would be wise to accept, not least as tens of billions of dollars have been wiped off Facebook’s value this week. But the scandal has also started a wider conversation about the amount of personal information that people share online - and who is then allowed to access it.
Mr Zuckerberg must now convincingly explain whether the public can trust Facebook - otherwise its downfall may occur even more rapidly than its rise.