LONDON — The chair of the British Parliaments media committee says that Cambridge Analyticas former CEO, Alexander Nix, says he will no longer testify at an upcoming session on fake news, citing an ongoing investigation by the information commissioners office.
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Nix had been recalled by the committee to testify Wednesday following testimony by whistleblower Christopher Wylie on the use of data mine from some 87 million Facebook users in the campaign for Donald Trumps presidential election.
Committee chair Damian Collins rejected Nixs reason for not appearing, as he has not "not been charged with any criminal offence and there is no active legal proceedings."
Collins says Tuesday that the committee "is minded to issue a formal summons for him to appear on a named day in the very near future."
The offices of Cambridge Analytica (CA) in central London, on March 20, 2018. (Kirsty OConnor/PA via AP)
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Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent 10 hours over two days giving testimony before Congress about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social networks policies for protecting user data and other topics.
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A senior Facebook executive has apologised at an Oireachtas Committee for the company's role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
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Joel Kaplan is appearing before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment over the use of social media and its potential influence on previous and future elections and referendums.
Addressing the committee, Mr Kaplan said what had happened represented a huge violation of trust and the company is deeply sorry.
He said the company knows it has a responsibility to the Facebook community and that people will only feel comfortable using its service if their data is safe.
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He said it was clear that Facebook did not do enough to prevent its tools from being used for harm and that it did not take a broad enough view of its responsibility, which was a mistake.
Mr Kaplan also outlined developments that Facebook had already and is currently implementing to ensure user data is secure.
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He revealed that Facebook is to expand a pilot of a tool that will increase transparency around ads on the platform to Ireland ahead of the forthcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
The View Ads feature is already being trialled in Canada following its launch there earlier this year and the company intends to roll it out globally from the summer.
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The tool, which will be available in Ireland from 25 April, will let users here see all ads that an advertiser is running on the platform at the same time, even if they are not appearing in that users News Feed.
They will be able to do this by clicking on an advertiser's page, selecting the "About" section and then choosing "View Active Ads".
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However, the tool will not provide detailed information, like for example who is paying for the ads, or who the ads are being targeted at and the reach they are achieving. It also will not be searchable.
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Further tools are being developed by Facebook that will enable this type of functionality but they will not be ready until mid-summer.
Facebook has been criticised for not making advertisers divulge information about who is behind ads, particularly during political campaigns.
Earlier, the Data Protection Commissioner said recent revelations around the use of Facebook data had shone a spotlight on "the undoubted asymmetries" arising from the inequality of resources available to big corporations versus ordinary users, where these organisations collate, control and utilise big data consisting of personal data.
Helen Dixon said public consciousness of the risks to individual rights to autonomy and self-determination resulting from these asymmetries and these types of processing of personal data is growing.
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The demand for greater control and transparency will be provided for under the incoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May, she added.
Answering questions from TDs and senators, Ms Dixon confirmed that once a user had left the Facebook environment they continue to be tracked by the social network.
She said there are means by which users can switch off tracking, but the default is that it is on. She added that these issues are under active examination by her office in consultation with Facebook.
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Speaking about the use of social media in elections, Ms Dixon said it is important users who engage in online platforms and consume news online do engage with control settings.
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She said that, if they choose to receive interest-based internet ads, they should be aware that they could be the subject of ads pushing them one specific direction.
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She also suggested that they be sure to consume other types of news from different publishers rather than relying solely on online news sources.
The commissioner also expressed the view that data protection laws and GDPR are strong enough to prohibit what should be prohibited in terms of personal data processing around elections.
Ms Dixon said there are a number of ways users can use controls and granular settings in order to ultimately switch off internet based ads.
She agreed that to date they have not been as accessible and easy to use as necessary.
However, she said her office has high hopes that the GDPR might help to change that.