On second day, Facebook CEO faced a House hearing to address data misuse in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations
- Five things we learned from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook hearing
- Zuckerberg put on back foot as House grills Facebook CEO over user tracking
Zuckerberg got rougher treatment from the House of Representatives than he did from the Senate. While yesterday Zuckerberg was largely able to stick to his script, some of the representatives today pressed hard for information on Facebook’s extensive tracking of users across the internet.
Zuckerberg continued his strategy of deflecting questions and downplaying what Facebook does, but his (hopefully? presumably?) feigned ignorance of the core technology that made Facebook into the business it is simply doesn’t hold water.
The overall impression I got was that, for all Zuck’s assurances that targeted advertising is “aligned” with Facebook’s “social mission”, the company has no interest in the general public actually knowing and understanding the extent of its ability to track users and amass data profiles of them. Almost every time he mentioned the “control” Facebook gives users over their content, he was avoiding answering a question about information that Facebook collects about users without their knowledge.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here is my colleague Alex Hern’s analysis of the hearing.
And we’re done!
Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of Zuckerberg’s two days of testimony.
Cramer says that he has more choice in internet service providers in rural North Dakota than he does for social networking.
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Zuck: The content reviewers we have aren’t actually in Silicon Valley for the most part.
Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, is the final representative to speak.
Cramer says he was dissatisfied with answers on opioid ads: How quickly could you take down an illegal drug site if there was a million dollar fine attached?
Zuck says he’s committed to being more pro-active.
Cramer suggests that Facebook build a new headquarters in North Dakota, where the talent pool won’t be so tainted by the Bay Area’s liberal bias.
Duncan says that the two biggest issues are privacy and censorship. “Why not have a standard for free speech that is simply a mirror of the first amendment?” he asks.
Zuck says terrorist speech could be protected by the first amendment, and that we don’t want it to spread on the internet.
Our second to last questioner is Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, who starts off by noting that Facebook is invaluable to him.
Buddy Carter, a Republican from Georgia, is asking Zuck what he knows about opioid addictions.
After a few minutes on that, he brings up trafficking of ivory in private groups and piracy of movies.
Carter gets to his point which is: Hate speech is difficult to figure out, but opioids, ivory trafficking, and movie piracy are not.
Ryan Costello, a Republican from Pennsylvania: What pieces of GDPR would be properly placed in American jurisprudence? Should we have right to erasure?
Zuck says he agrees with controls, and raises concern about sensitive tech like facial recognition.
Costello: Should you be able to deploy AI for facial recognition for a non-Facebook user?
Zuck: That’s a good question.
Costello: Are you ever a publisher?
Zuck: If we commission and fund it, yes. Otherwise, no.
Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, hits Zuck hard on his apparent ignorance of his company’s basic functions: “As CEO you didn’t know some key facts. You didn’t know about key court cases regarding privacy and your company. You didn’t know that the FTC doesn’t have fining. You didn’t know what a shadow profile is. You don’t know how many apps you need to audit. You don’t know what other companies were sold the Kogan data, even though you were asked that yesterday. You don’t even know how many kinds of information you’re logging.”
Dingell is the first to raise Facebook Pixel, another way that Facebook can track browsers across the internet.
Dingell asks how many “like” buttons exist in the wilds of the internet?
Zuck says he doesn’t know.
Dingell asks how many chunks of Pixel code are out there.
Zuck doesn’t know. She asks for a 72 hour response.
Mimi Walters, a Republican from California, is showing screenshots of Facebook’s privacy settings for apps and photos.
She asks, which control governs? Is it the app permissions? Or the user’s decisions?
Zuck explains the difference between app permissions and in-line controls on content.
Walters suggests this is difficult to understand, and asks why the controls aren’t all in the same place.
Zuck says Facebook both keeps the controls in settings and also shows them to people when they are relevant.
Tim Walberg, a Republican from Michigan, asks who the bad actors that inspired Facebook to cut down on API permissions actually were.
Zuck says developers who were taking information that wasn’t relevant to their apps.
Walberg: Can Facebook guarantee that there will be no bad actors on apps on its platform?
Zuck: This is an arms race. Guarantees are difficult.
Walberg: Can you assure me that ads and content are not being denied based on specific views?
Zuck: Yes, politically. When it comes to “normal political speech”, but not for things like terrorism.
If nothing else, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have the full support of Representative Chris Collins.
Chris Collins, a Republican from New York, says that it’s very good that we now all know that Facebook doesn’t sell data.
Somewhere, a Facebook PR staffer is cracking open a bottle of champagne.
Hudson: What’s the difference between hate speech and speech we don’t like?
Zuck: It’s complicated. This is an area where society is shifting.
Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina, mentions that he represents many members of the military from Fort Bragg and raises concerns about the national security threat of leaking information about military.
Scott Peters, a Democrat from California, asks whether it would make sense for Congress to define privacy in law.
Zuck: It’s an interesting question.
Peters notes that privacy isn’t a “bottom line issue” for shareholders. “Privacy doesn’t drive profits, and it may interfere with profits.” He asks whether it would help if there were real financial disincentives to violating privacy.
Zuck rejects the premise that privacy and profit aren’t necessarily opposed.
Peters: What do Europeans get right and wrong about privacy?
Zuck: GDPR in general is going to be a very positive step for the internet.
Zuck says that Facebook also offers many controls, and says the requirement for more make sense.
Peters: What about things they got wrong?
Zuck: I need to think about that more.