NEW YORK (AP) — Mark Zuckerberg faced two days of grilling before House and Senate committees Tuesday and Wednesday to address Facebook’s privacy issues and the need for more regulation for the social media site.
Yet the hearings in Washington managed to showcase the normally press-shy Zuckerberg’s ability to perform as an able and well-rehearsed, if a bit stiff, CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies — and the degree to which much of Congress appears befuddled about technology and the relevant issues.
“For the most part, so far, this has been a victory for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg and enormous validation that D.C. is ineffectual,” said Scott Galloway, who teaches marketing at New York University.
The hearings were a major test for Zuckerberg. Facebook is confronting its biggest privacy scandal in 14 years after it was revealed that the data firm Cambridge Analytica misused data from up to 87 million users.
Some members of Congress hold computer science degrees or other technical knowledge and were well-versed in the issues, drilling Zuckerberg about how Facebook tracks people who are not on the site and what changes the social media will make to protect user data. Others focused on concerns like censorship and perceived bias on the site as well as children’s privacy policies.
But many appeared out of touch on the fundamentals of how Facebook works and lobbed mainly softball questions.
On Wednesday Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican, asked about the removal of inappropriate opioid advertisements from the site. But he also waxed on about how many people his age and older use Facebook.
“My friends, my constituents — we all use Facebook,” Bilirakis said. “It’s wonderful for us seniors to connect with our relatives.”
Part of the problem was the structure of the hearings. Dozens of lawmakers had just four or five minutes to ask questions. Tough follow-up queries were few.
Many of Zuckerberg’s answers to Congress people served as a crash course in Facebook 101, or basic information about Facebook’s business model. On Tuesday, 84-year old Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who had been a senator for nearly eight years when Zuckerberg was born, asked how Facebook’s business model works given that it is free.
“Senator, we run ads,” Zuckerberg explained, a smile breaking through his solemn demeanor.
Another laugh came when Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked whether Facebook was a monopoly.
“It certainly doesn’t seem that way to me,” Zuckerberg replied
On Wednesday, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, had a similar “Grandpa” moment, holding up his phone and observing that he had received a question from a constituent “through Facebook.”
“I actually use Facebook,” he added.
And in the fourth hour of the House hearing on Wednesday, Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., asked a question Zuckerberg had been asked multiple times. Once again, it was about the basic way Facebook works.
“How can someone control keeping the content within the realm they want it to without being collected?” Mullin asked.
“If you don’t want any data to be collected around advertising, you can turn that off and we won’t do it,” Zuckerberg reiterated.
The soft questioning “goes directly to the point that the technical expertise among senators is weak,” said Timothy Carone, a Notre Dame business professor.
And they allowed Zuckerberg to repeat his talking points — that Facebook doesn’t own or sell users data, that he and other senior executives weren’t proactive enough with Cambridge Analytica but they’ve changed that, and that using artificial intelligence in elections to stop fake accounts is a top priority.
“He’s giving the same responses to the same questions from different senators,” said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York.
Zuckerberg seemed often to retreat to three “safe havens,” Garcia said:
One, diffusing responsibility to his “team.”
Two, when pressed on policy issues, agreeing to a principle without committing to details.
And three, never failing in answering questions to start by addressing the questioner as “senator” or “congressman.”
“He’s diligent in showing deference and respect,” Garcia said.
Still, Richard Levick, CEO of public-relations firm Levick, who has worked with executives to prepare for testimony, said that while Zuckerberg performed well, Facebook’s problems don’t end with the end of the hearing.
“The real challenge is going to come now,” Levick said. “Everyone will be looking at what Facebook is doing in court and around the country and take issues with the promises that he made today.”
Reveal Truth Behind Data and Privacy
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made several assertions about Facebook’s data collection and privacy controls during two days of hearings on Capitol Hill.
Those included claims that Facebook lets you download your data and take it elsewhere; that users can turn off data collection for advertising purposes; and that Facebook tracks users even when they’re not on Facebook itself, but only for “security purposes.”
In all these cases, the situation is not as clear-cut as Zuckerberg made it sound. Here’s a look at his statements.
Zuckerberg: “People have the ability to see everything they have in Facebook, take that out, delete that account and move their data anywhere that they want.”
The facts: That’s only partly true.
You can indeed download a subset of the information it has collected on you. But the resulting file mostly contains a jumble of contacts, messages and advertisers who have been allowed to target you through Facebook.
That makes the information mostly useless if you hoped to use it to join a different social network, because it’s incomplete and not organized in a way that another service could easily import.
Experts say Facebook has made it technically untenable to take your data elsewhere. University researchers have tried to figure out how to make that data portable, but failed because Facebook keeps changing the public-facing software required.
There are other issues that make true data portability vexing. Zuckerberg alluded to one on Wednesday: Who owns material shared across a social network to multiple users? “Let’s say I take a photo and I share it with you. Now is that my photo or is it your photo?” he said.
Zuckerberg: “There is a setting so if you don’t want any data to be collected around advertising, you can turn that off and then we won’t do it.”
The facts: There is no such single setting on Facebook.
You can limit ad targeting, but it requires several steps, which you may have to repeat from time to time. By default, Facebook shows you ads based on interests you’ve expressed over the years and the companies you have “interacted” with — for instance, by sharing your email or phone number, visiting their website or using their app.
You can turn off such targeted ads with a single option in your Facebook settings. Doing so means, for example, that you won’t get an ad on Facebook for a pair of shoes you just looked at on a shopping website, though you’ll still get generic ads.
But that doesn’t stop the data collection. Facebook also adds targeting categories based on your demographic information, such as whether you might have a child, your birthday and age, what mobile device you use and even your political leanings — whether or not you’ve explicitly shared any of that on Facebook.
Turning off those categories is a chore, as you have to select them one by one in settings. And if you like a new page, click on a new ad or add your email to a new business’s contact list, the whole thing starts over.
Zuckerberg: “There may be specific things about how you use Facebook, even if you’re not logged in, that we — that we keep track of, to make sure that people aren’t abusing the systems.”
At a different point in the hearing, he said: “In general, we collect data of people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes.”
The facts: Facebook collects data on your online habits wherever it can find you, and very little of it appears to be for security purposes.
Facebook pays third-party websites and apps to let it place tracking code across the internet and mobile devices. That code can be embedded in browser files called “cookies,” invisible screen pixels, or Facebook’s familiar “like” and “share” buttons.
That code then reports back to Facebook on your surfing habits to help it better target ads. Along with Google, Facebook is consistently among the top three data-collectors in the field, said Reuben Binns, an Oxford University computer scientist who researches these beacons.
In February, a Belgian court ruled that Facebook had violated European privacy law with such tracking because it hadn’t obtained consent either to collect or store the data.
ADMITS His MISTAKE!
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized for Russian election interference and third-party use of user data in a testimony to Congress. He confessed it in front of dozens of U.S. senators during which he repeatedly apologized and promised privacy reforms. Mark Zuckerberg said that it was my mistake, and I’m sorry.
He also defended his company against the threat of new legislation. He told members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees that his company was trying to change in light of recent criticism.
Mark Zuckerberg Told to Congress: It was My Mistake & I’m Sorry
Mark Zuckerberg encountered 44 senators in a joint hearing of the Senate judiciary and commerce committees to talk about how his social media platform protects user data and deals with election meddling.
Mark Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks that Facebook didn’t do enough to prevent its tools from being used for harm citing fake news, interference in foreign elections, hate speech and data privacy.
Zuckerberg apologized several times for Facebook failures during five hours of Senate questioning. He also disclosed that his company was working with special counsel Robert Mueller in the federal probe of Russian election interference. He told to the congress that the company was working hard to change its own operations after the harvesting of users private data by a data-mining company affiliated with Donald Trump’s campaign.
Mark Zuckerberg admitted that we have made many mistakes in running the company and we will work harder for ensuring the tools created by Facebook are used in good and healthy manner.
After Facebook hearing, senators roll out new bill to prevent online use of data.
However, it was such a good step taken by Mark Zuckerberg. By apologizing in front of Congress and ensuring the privacy of users in future, might once again build the confidence of users on this giant social media platform.