Zuckerberg Survives 10-Hour Bipartisan Attack on Social Media
Provokes and Perplexes an Aging Congress
Tuesday, Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg testified before both of those Senate panel’s Tuesday, followed by another round with the House Energy and Commerce Committee today. The testimony was offered voluntarily by Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg after it was revealed that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica may have misused the personal information of nearly 90 million people. Congress shared many of their personal opinions and between both testimonies, few facts took the forefront, the most glaring omission: data is never sold to third-parties, including Cambridge Analytica, and sensitive data is not collected by Facebook.
In the week leading up to today’s grilling, many legislators have taken center stage advertising their plans to take Zuckerberg to task. Chief among them, Democratic ranking member Nelson (D-FL) “If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions, then we are going to have to,” Nelson told the Post last Monday. Nelson said the jurisdiction of federal agencies complicates matters: he thinks the Federal Communications Commission, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, should have a role in regulating social media platforms.
Watching the testimonies on both days, the impression was very much that Congress was grandstanding as a cohort, using Facebook, and Mark personally as scapegoats; deflecting attention from voters themselves, who were willing participants in a simply intelligent marketing strategy.
Watching the testimonies on both days, the impression was very much that Congress was grandstanding as a cohort, using Facebook, and Mark personally as scapegoats; deflecting attention from voters themselves, who were willing participants in a simply intelligent marketing strategy. In anticipation of 2018, Congress seeks to gain the trust of their constituents — despite the bitter truth: their constituents feel unjustly victimized, they exercised their own free will: liking, sharing, and otherwise affirming political propaganda as it was curated for them.
…constituents feel unjustly victimized — they exercised their own free will: liking, sharing, and otherwise affirming sinister political propaganda as it was curated for them.
Surprisingly leftist in his commentary was would-be Presidential candidate, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham, rather than spending too much of his five-minute window discussing the logistics of Facebook’s third-party policies, urged Zuckerberg to admit his company was a monopoly. The CEO responded assuredly that Americans use approximately 8 social networks each, but to no avail. Graham urged the CEO to consider the gravitas and inherent danger must accompany Facebook’s success. The question rang strange, coming from a self-described pro-business conservative, publicly condemning the authenticity of a company, simply because it is a successful one.
By Wednesday’s hearing, the House was on the offense, frequently interrupting Zuckerberg and scolding the executive to accept user confusion regarding the use of their data. Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) pressed hard to get a verbal agreement from the CEO to change Facebook’s default settings and minimize the collection of data. Pallone said at one point “I think this is a simple yes or no question,” upon Zuckerberg’s insistence that the issue warranted more a more contextual reply, Pallone uttered soberly, “that is disappointing to me.”
Europe was also a topic of conversation Wednesday, as lawmakers probed for Zuckerberg’s opinion on European data privacy law. In particular, the General Data Protection Regulation sanctioned by the European Union, a far cry from the current Facebook experience as it requires frequent and explicit opt-in consent from users. Economists estimate Facebook will lose nearly $3 billion dollars as a result of GDPR. To the dismay of lawmakers, Zuckerberg did not guarantee such policy changes will be implemented worldwide.
“We’ve made a lot of mistakes running the company,” Zuckerberg conceded, adding that he was ‘committed to getting (data privacy) right.’
Finally addressing Facebook’s abbreviated data policy made available to users, Zuckerberg said: “The truth is long privacy policies are confusing,” adding that providing full-text policies to users “statistically decreases the number of people who will read it.” He wasn’t wrong.
In 2014, Pew Research found that half of Americans online do not know what privacy policies are. A measly estimated 20% of those who do, assert they always read privacy policies. The potential damage of dodging the fine print in everyday transactions is indisputable — it leaves us susceptible to stealing, spamming and suffering the full range of consequences of services we utilize.
Still, over the course of the testimony it became clear that it is a difficult thing to lambaste the practices of an infant superpower; and if changes are to be made, they ought to address the meat, not the potatoes. An entity’s true motives are not readily discoverable on paper. No one could have known Cambridge Analytica would fall victim to scandal after ugly scandal, such as that revealed in late March, when a British news report found a video of CA executives, namely CEO Alexander Nix (now suspended) of offering to entrap politicians.
Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s free nature and the realities of potential abuse of implementing new technologies. Stated eloquently by Zuckerberg, “This is an ongoing arms race. As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job is it to try to interfere in elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict.”
Facebook is now investigating tens of thousands of third-party app companies that had access to this information to understand and potentially audit their use of Facebook’s data.
Clearly, social networks are not avenues with which people feel a significant level of paranoia. Most of the public’s focus concerning identity theft is strictly financial; without the necessity of entering our most sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, home addresses and the like, often the privacy policies of social networks are a distant afterthought. Ultimately, the privacy we demand as it pertains to our favorite bands, our relationship status, and even DM contents is minimal. We enter this data at-will each day.
…behavior shows that the privacy we demand as it pertains to our favorite bands, our relationship status, and DM contents is minimal. Most Americans are not nearly as paranoid about their data’s ownership, as they are embarrassed by their own data’s (lack of) substance.
What is to come of these investigations we cannot be sure. All told, it is the hope of pro-innovation voters, that the sudden public scrutiny regarding social media privacy will subside quickly post-testimony. Because the data shows, that all the spectacle, most Americans are not nearly as paranoid about their data’s ownership, as they are embarrassed by their own data’s (lack of) substance.