They seek them here, they seek them there, but Facebook ‘Scarlet Pimpernels’ Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have now been slapped with open-ended summonses in Canada after ignoring a joint subpoena, meaning that if either places even one foot over the border they will be hauled in front of the country’s MPs.
The subpoenas were issued earlier this month in an effort to force the duo to testify in front of the rather sumptuously titled “International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy” – made up of lawmakers from nearly a dozen countries – which was held in Ottawa yesterday (May 28).
The Committee is demanding that the Facebook chiefs explain why they allowed Cambridge Analytica to collect personal information tens of millions of users and then target specific voting groups to influence election outcomes.
In the first meeting of the Committee, held in the autumn in London, Zuckerberg refused to attend and instead dispatched one of his underlings to testify in his place.
At yesterday’s hearing sat two name cards – “Mark Zuckerberg” and “Sheryl Sandberg” – and two empty chairs. Instead Facebook sent Canadian head of public policy Kevin Chan and director of public policy Neil Potts.
In response to the big boss no-show, New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus said: “If Mr Zuckerberg or Ms Sandberg decides to come here for a tech conference, or to go fishing, Parliament will be able to serve that summons and have them brought here.”
Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who chairs the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, warned that if the duo entered the country and did not appear before the committee, Parliament could hold them in contempt.
Though other technology companies, including Google, were summoned to appear, it was Facebook’s decision to send relatively junior representatives that drew the most outrage.
Zimmer called the top executives’ absence “abhorrent”. He added: “Shame on Mark Zuckerberg and shame on Sheryl Sandberg for not showing up today.”
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