FILE- In this April 10, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election. Chinese phone maker Huawei said Wednesday, June 6, that it has never collected or stored Facebook user data, after the social media giant acknowledged it shared such data with Huawei and other manufacturers. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Australian leader backs Zuckerberg's grilling in Parliament

June 07, 2018 - 12:42 am

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's prime minister said on Thursday he would welcome Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testifying to an Australian parliamentary committee on the social media giant's sharing of data with Chinese phone maker Huawei.

Leaders of Australia's Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security have raised the prospect of the 34-year-old multi-billionaire being invited to explain Facebook's relationships with Huawei. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull supported the call for Zuckerberg to fly more than 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) from Menlo Park in California to face lawmakers in Canberra.

"I would welcome Facebook coming and testifying before our parliamentary committees, yes," Turnbull told reporters. "Of course, we'd love to see the boss."

Huawei said Wednesday it has never collected or stored Facebook user data, after Facebook acknowledged it shared such data with Huawei and other manufacturers.

Huawei, a company flagged by U.S. intelligence officials as a national security threat and barred on security grounds from involvement in Australia's National Broadband Network, was the latest device maker at the center of a fresh wave of allegations over Facebook's handling of private data.

Chinese firms Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were among numerous handset makers that were given access to Facebook data in a "controlled" way approved by Facebook, according to a statement Tuesday from Francisco Varela, Facebook's vice president of mobile partnerships.

It's the latest privacy gaffe for Facebook since allegations emerged in March that a Trump-affiliated political consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica, had improperly harvested data of Facebook users in an effort to influence elections.

The Australian committee, like a court, can summons witnesses to give evidence, although it is questionable whether a witness outside Australia could be compelled to attend. In practice, committees always invite rather than compel witnesses to attend hearings.

Facebook was asked by The Associated Press whether Zuckerberg would accept such an invitation, but did not immediately respond on Thursday.

The committee's chairman Andrew Hastie and deputy chairman Anthony Byrne say Facebook owed answers to its 15 million Australian users.

"It is completely unacceptable that information from Facebook users has been slyly handed over to Huawei by Facebook," Byrne told The Australian newspaper. "I want to know why Mr. Zuckerberg allowed this to happen. If need be, he will be invited to appear" before the committee, Byrne added.

Byrne was not immediately available for comment on Thursday, but his office confirmed that he had been accurately quoted.

Zuckerberg has been called to give evidence to U.S. congressional committees and the European Parliament in recent months over user privacy breaches.

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