The New Zealand Herald
To like another day
Takeaways from day of testimony
details of Facebook’s underlying functions, often deflected aggressive questioning.
When the going got tough, Zuckerberg was able to fall back on: “Our team should follow up with you on that, Senator.” As a result, he found it relatively easy to return to familiar talking points: Facebook made mistakes, he and his executives are very sorry, and they’re working very hard to correct the problems and safeguard users’ data. Facebook’s internal review of possible abuse covers “tens of thousands of apps” Mark Zuckerberg was on Capitol Hill because personal information about an estimated 87 million Facebook users may have been improperly shared with the data firm Cambridge Analytica. Senator Charles Grassley asked whether there have been similar breaches involving other companies. “We believe that we’re going to be investigating many apps — tens of thousands of apps,” Zuckerberg said. “And, if we find any suspicious activity, we’re going to conduct a full audit of those apps to understand how they’re using their data and if they’re doing anything improper. If we find that they’re doing anything improper, we’ll ban them from Facebook, and we will tell everyone affected.” Facebook is co-operating with special counsel Robert Mueller This is unsurprising, because Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which involved the use of Facebook to spread disinformation. Still, it is notable that Zuckerberg confirmed the company’s co-operation with his team. He said he was “not aware of a subpoena” and that he has not been interviewed by the special counsel’s team. But he answered “I believe so” when asked whether other Facebook staffers have been interviewed.
As for the federal Russia probe that has occupied much of Washington’s attention for months, he said he had not been interviewed by special counsel Mueller’s team, but “I know we’re working with them”. He offered no details, citing a concern about confidentiality rules of the investigation.
Earlier this year Mueller charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies in a plot to interfere in the 2016 presidential election Some senators don’t know how Facebook works In perhaps the most glaring example, Senator Orrin Hatch asked Zuckerberg, “How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” Zuckerberg paused for a moment, seemingly surprised by the basic nature of the question, and said, “Senator, we run ads.” Public speaking does not come naturally to Zuckerberg NBC reported that Zuckerberg prepared for his testimony by participating in four practice sessions. The New York Times reported that Facebook “hired a team of experts . . . through a crash course in humility and charm”. An ad-free, subscriptionbased version of Facebook is possible Zuckerberg said “there will always be a version of Facebook that is free” and “we don’t offer an option today for people to pay to not show ads”. The qualifiers in those statements — “version”, “today” — suggest a future, ad-free version of Facebook could come with a subscription fee. Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said something similar to NBC last week: “We don’t have an opt-out [of ads] at the highest level. That would be a paid product.” through a social media propaganda effort that included online ad purchases using US aliases and politicking on US soil. A number of the Russian ads were on Facebook.
Much of the effort was aimed at denigrating Democrat Hillary Clinton and thereby helping Republican Trump, or simply encouraging divisiveness and undercutting faith in the US system.
Zuckerberg said Facebook had been led to believe Cambridge Analytica had deleted the user data it had harvested and that had been “clearly a mistake”. He said Facebook had considered the data collection “a closed case” and had not alerted the Federal Trade Commission. He assured senators the company would handle the situation differently today.
Separately, the company began alerting some of its users that their data was gathered by Cambridge Analytica. A notification that appeared on Facebook for some users yesterday told them that “one of your friends” used Facebook to log into a now-banned personality quiz app called “This Is Your Digital Life”. The notice says the app misused the information, including public profiles, page likes, birthdays and current cities, by sharing it with Cambridge Analytica.
In the hearings, Zuckerberg is trying to both restore public trust in his company and stave off federal regulations that some lawmakers have floated.
Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida said he believes Zuckerberg was taking the congressional hearings seriously “because he knows there is going to be a hard look at regulation”. Republicans have yet to get behind any legislation, but that could change.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked Zuckerberg if he would be willing to work with lawmakers to examine what “regulations you think are necessary in your industry”.
Absolutely, Zuckerberg responded, saying later in an exchange with Republican Senator Dan Sullivan that “I’m not the type of person who thinks that all regulation is bad”.
Zuckerberg also took responsibility for any Facebook failings: “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
He outlined steps the company has taken to restrict outsiders’ access to people’s personal information. He also said the company is investigating every app that had access to a large amount of information before the company moved to prevent such access in 2014 — actions that came too late in the Cambridge Analytica case.