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More Lawmakers, Including Rep. Lance, Call On Zuckerberg To Testify

NOEL KING, HOST:

Mark Zuckerberg did apologize after news that Cambridge Analytica shared the data of millions of Facebook users, but the company is still facing a lot of pressure. The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday that it is investigating Facebook's use of data. Zuckerberg at present is resisting calls to testify before the British Parliament. But here in the U.S., many lawmakers are insisting that he testify on Capitol Hill. New Jersey representative Leonard Lance is a Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It's one of several committees that have asked Zuckerberg to testify.

Good morning, Representative Lance.

LEONARD LANCE: Good morning to you, Noel.

KING: So Zuckerberg told CNN he'd be happy to testify, quote, "if he was the right person." Now, you've heard the testimony of other Facebook employees in your time at the Commerce Committee. What do you think that Zuckerberg could tell you that they can't?

LANCE: I think we have to get to the bottom of this whole situation, and we want to know whether Facebook violated a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to keep users' data private. That was a consent agreement. And we want to hear from Mr. Zuckerberg, who is obviously the face of Facebook.

KING: Europe recently passed laws that would do away with these fine print user agreements that none of us really read, and it would replace them with these very clear explanations of how the company is using your data. Is that the kind of regulation that could work here in the U.S.?

LANCE: Perhaps. And certainly, the Federal Trade Commission is competent in this area, and we want to ask whether there was a violation of an agreement, an explicit agreement, that was put into place in 2011. I want to inform your listeners that it is the Commerce Committee that has jurisdiction in this area, and in a bipartisan way, the chairman Congressman Walden and the ranking member Congressman Pallone have written Mr. Zuckerberg, and we want to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible, Noel.

KING: Well, let me present you with the opposite argument, right? No one is forcing any of us to use Facebook. If we don't like its data gathering practices, we can quit. We can leave. You're a Republican. Are you skeptical of calls for more regulation?

LANCE: I think that we should have balanced regulation. But the question at the moment, it seems to me, is whether or not Facebook violated an agreement that has already been put been put into place, the agreement in 2011, a consent agreement that Facebook signed with the Federal Trade Commission. And that is something that is on the books right now, and we think it's important that Mr. Zuckerberg come before the appropriate committees in Congress, both on the House side where I serve, and in the Senate. And also, as you know, Noel, he's been asked to come before the British Parliament.

KING: Yeah, and has turned them down thus far. Let me ask you, if Facebook is in violation of the consent decree, what happens then? Does the FTC fine Facebook?

LANCE: It certainly has the ability to do that, and we would be informed by that, we in Congress, because ultimately we are the responsible entity for the American people. I believe that the Federal Trade Commission so far has done a good job. And the question at the moment is whether or not there was a violation of a consent agreement that has already been put into place.

KING: If Mark Zuckerberg refuses to testify, could you compel him with a subpoena to come to Capitol Hill?

LANCE: Yes. Congress does have the ability to subpoena witnesses. I hope it does not come to that. And I'm sure both the chair and, I would presume, the ranking member, as well, would hope that he would testify voluntarily. But, to answer your question explicitly, Congress, because we work for the American people, we do have the right ultimately to subpoena any witness.

KING: Congressman Leonard Lance is a Republican from New Jersey. Congressman, thank you.

LANCE: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.