Facebook CEO Zuckerberg says his own data given to Cambridge Analytica
During the hearing, lawmakers are said to have repeatedly interrupted Zuckerberg mentioning that he was not answering questions to their satisfaction.
Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday, the second day of Congressional hearings. The CEO of the social media giant is facing questions following reports that research firm Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to the personal data of as many as 87 million Facebook users.
The second day of hearing, according to several media reports, was “tougher” as the lawmakers repeatedly interrupted Zuckerberg mentioning that he was not answering questions to their satisfaction.
The committee members were particularly concerned about Facebook’s handling of user data and its privacy settings, which put the onus on users to protect their privacy.
The hearing was kicked off by Greg Walden, Republican representative from Oregon and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He reportedly opened the session by saying that while Facebook has “certainly grown”, he was worried that it had “not matured”.
Walden also talked about the prospect of regulation, saying that he thought that it was time to ask whether Facebook may have “moved too fast and broken too many things.”
Replying on regulations, Zuckerberg reportedly said that regulation was “inevitable”, but, he added, that the right kind of regulation mattered, and pointed out that some regulation could only solidify the power of a large company like Facebook, which could hurt start-ups.
Interestingly, during the five-hour testimony, the billionaire entrepreneur is said to have revealed that his own personal information was among that handed over to the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Zuckerberg reportedly said this in response to a question asked by Democratic congresswoman Anna Eshoo. Eshoo also asked Zuckerberg if he was willing to change his business model to protect users’ privacy. He was quoted as replying, “Congresswoman, I’m not sure what that means.”
Democratic congressman Eliot Engel reportedly asked Zuckerberg if Facebook planned to sue Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan, who is accused of mining the data from Facebook through an app that he built for the social media platform.
To which, Zuckerberg is said to have replied that legal action was being considered. “What we found now is that there’s a whole programme associated with Cambridge University where … there were a number of other researchers building similar apps. We do need to understand whether there is something bad going on at Cambridge University overall that will require a stronger action from us,” he was quoted as saying by some media reports.
During the hearing, Zuckerberg was asked if he agreed to privacy legislation which requires permission for data collection, to which, the CEO reportedly did not express support.
Questioning the 34-year-old businessman on user data, Representative Frank Pallone Jr. asked Zuckerberg if the social media platform would agree to change Facebook’s default settings to minimize collection and use of users’ data.
“This is a complex issue that deserves more than a one word answer,” Zuckerberg said, to which Pallone responded saying that the answer was “disappointing”.
The concern on user data was echoed by Representative Bobby L. Rush, who reportedly asked Zuckerberg as to “why was the onus on the user to opt in to privacy and security settings?”
Representative Raul Ruiz extended a proposal to create a digital consumer protection agency that would subject Facebook and its peers to “some degree of government involvement.” Zuckerberg did not dismiss the idea and reportedly said that “it deserves a lot of consideration”.
Raising the Cambridge Analytica matter, Democratic Congressman Mike Doyle reportedly asked, “When the Guardian made the report, was that the first time you heard about it?” He accused Facebook of “turning a blind eye” to developers’ abuses.
Zuckerberg reportedly answered, “Respectfully, I disagree with that characterisation. We’ve had a review process for apps for years. We’ve reviewed tens of thousands of apps a year.”
Wednesday’s hearing definitely put Facebook CEO in a difficult position, with lawmakers making some tough statements.
Democrat Bobby Rush was reported to have asked Zuckerberg “What is the difference between Facebook’s methodology and the methodology of the American political pariah J Edgar Hoover (former FBI chief)?”
Republican Marsha Blackburn was quoted as saying, “I can’t let you filibuster right now."
Media reports quoted Democrat John Sarbanes as saying, “Facebook is becoming a self-regulated superstructure for political discourse. Are we, the American people, going to regulate the political dialogue, or are you, Mark Zuckerberg?”
On Tuesday, Zuckerberg had appeared for a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees.
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