- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Facebook on Tuesday admitted personal data from up to 87 million users of the embattled social media platform was improperly shared with the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

“In total, we believe the Facebook information of up to 87 million people — mostly in the U.S. — may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica,” the firms’ chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer wrote on a company blog.

Previously, whistleblower Christopher Wylie had reveled that data from 50 million had been improperly obtained by Cambridge Analytica, which assisted Donald Trump in his successful 2016 presidential campaign.

The updated numbers came hours after Capitol Hill lawmakers confirmed that Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify next week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Chairman Greg Walden and ranking member Frank Pallone said Mr. Zuckerberg will appear on April 11 at 10 a.m.

“This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” the leaders said in a joint press release Tuesday morning.

For weeks pressure in Washington has been mounting for Mr. Zuckerberg to address concerns over escalating revelations of the firm’s misuse of user data.

In the case of Cambridge Analytica — a private company not affiliated with the British university — the firm obtained but failed to destroy personal information from users who had downloaded a personality profile app. It then allegedly used the data to micro-target political ads to U.S. citizens based on personality traits.

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked the social media giant on March 16, Facebook has scrambled to contain the damage as its share price has lost roughly $80 billion in market value.

Last week, Mr. Zuckerberg unveiled a centralized system for users to better control privacy and security settings and allow users to hide personal information, including political preferences.

On Tuesday — before the news that data from 87 million users might have been compromised — Facebook announced moves to remove “more than 270 pages and accounts” it had found to be operated by the Internet Research Agency, or IRA, a shadowy Kremlin-connected propaganda operation.

Earlier this year, the IRA was charged with waging “information warfare” against the U.S. in an indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which has been investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

For months, Mr. Zuckerberg dismissed the notion that the world’s largest social media platform had been manipulated by foreign agents to influence the 2016 vote.

But earlier this year, he admitted social media is awash in “sensationalism, misinformation and polarization.”

Sally Persons contributed to this report.

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