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Senate summons Facebook, Google, Twitter CEOs over data privacy

The hearing will happen April 10. Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey are all on the invite list.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is calling Mark Zuckerberg to testify on April 10. 
James Martin/CNET

The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally sent an invitation to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the US Congress.

The topic: your data privacy on social networks.

It's yet more fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal that has consumed Facebook since the middle of March, but the senatorial inquiry won't be limited to the world's biggest social network. Also on the invitation list for the hearing are Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

"We have received and are reviewing the invite," a Facebook spokesman said. 

Google didn't respond to a request for comment. Twitter declined to comment. 

Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the judiciary committee and a Republican from Iowa, announced the hearing Monday. Scheduled for April 10, it's on the "future of data privacy in social media." More specifically, it will focus on privacy standards for how data is collected by social networks, as well as how it's distributed to third-party groups and for commercial use. The committee wants to see how the data can be misused and what steps Facebook is taking to better protect your personal information. 

Worries about the privacy of consumers' personal data erupted when The New York Times and The Guardian revealed how the information on 50 million Facebook users fell into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based election consulting firm. Cambridge Analytica has denied any wrongdoing.

Lawmakers and regulators in the US and Europe were quick to call for Zuckerberg to stand up and address the issue.

Zuckerberg has since apologized and promised to be more responsible about how Facebook handles data. He also said that he'd be "happy to" testify to Congress, "if it's the right thing to do." 

In the past, Facebook has sent legal counsels in lieu of Zuckerberg to testify before Congress. Likewise with Google and Twitter, as in the case of congressional inquiries over Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.

"What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge about what Congress is trying to learn," Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNN. "If that's me, then I am happy to go."

Also on Monday, the US Federal Trade Commission confirmed that it has opened an investigation into Facebook's privacy practices.

Zuckerberg may also soon get an invitation to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Originally published at 10:05 a.m. PT on March 26.
Updated at 10:27 a.m. PT: To include more details from the invitation.
Updated at 1:23 p.m. PT: To include a response from Facebook.

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