Key takeaways from Mark Zuckerberg’s Congress testimony

By Asra Rizwan on
April 11, 2018
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has survived the five-hour hearing session of Congress for the data breach scandal that violated over 87 million Facebook accounts for user data and allowed a Russian misinformation agency to interfere in 2016 US elections. The CEO maintained his calm and presented only the company viewpoints without making any major blunders. While his answers to tougher questions were vague and dissatisfactory, he was not grilled as much because most of the senators were unaware of the technology and did not know how the basic features of Facebook work. Zuckerberg managed to stay on track and apologized for the mistake,

“We didn´t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake, and I´m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I´m responsible for what happens here.”

He reinforced that Facebook is now proactively configuring significant changes to prevent such data violations. However, when the tech-literate senators asked him questions pertaining to FTC violations and conversations inside the company, Zuckerberg was unable to answer in a satisfied manner. He said,

“We need to take a more active view in policing the ecosystem and watching and looking out and making sure that all the members in our community are using these tools in a way that´s going to be good and healthy.”

Here are some key takeaways from the Senate hearing:

  • Unspecified Facebook employees that did not include Mark Zuckerberg have been questioned by the special counsel office of Robert Mueller for the Russian interference in US 2016 elections.
  • Facebook was accused of violating an order of Federal Trade Commission issued in 2011 for sharing private information without user consent. Zuckerberg denied the accusation by saying that users technically consented to it when we explained how it worked.
  • There will always be a version of Facebook that is free, however, Facebook might consider offering a subscription-based, ad-free option for users. Mark Zuckerberg believes that ad model is right for Facebook but they can certainly consider other ideas.
  • Zuckerberg indicated that most users do not read the terms of services when signing up for the social network when they have the opportunity to do so. They simply consent to it.
  • Facebook is still investigating the Cambridge Analytica breach and auditing if someone else had harvested user data. However, they do not have specific knowledge of Russia or China scraping data and building profiles on yours.
  • Zuckerberg had to explain thrice that Facebook does not sell user data.
  • Facebook was also grilled for its perceived political bias pertaining to the closure of right-wing pages and suppression of conservative news stories.
  • When Zuckerberg refused to share the name of the hotel he was staying, the top Democratic Senator commented,
    “I think that might be what this is all about. Your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy, and how much you’d give away in modern America.”

This is not done for the CEO yet. Today he will reappear before Congress, this time in front of a House committee. Nearing the end of the proceedings. Senator John Thue commented and rightly so,

“This should be a wake-up call for the tech community. We´re listening, America is listening, and quite possibly the world is listening too.”

 
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