Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress on Tuesday (April 10) about his company’s role in the giant data breach of its users.
The FB head has been under fire since news broke that Cambridge Analytica had gained access to 50 million users. The hammer came down again last week when it was reported that it was more like 87 million users. Due to the heavily influential hand FB has on its users and the world, Congress wanted answers from Zuckerberg about what he’s doing to maintain users’ privacy.
Zuckerberg said he and his teams were working on it… and that was about it.
To be rather blunt, it was a 33-year-old millennial vaguely explaining what FB is and does to a large group of people whose average age is 60. Zuckerberg was visibly nervous, which is understandable, but he wasn’t really pressed as expected by Congress considering Facebook’s role in the 2016 election interference, even claiming ignorance about the platform that he created.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) got a few good questions in, asking Zuckerberg who was FB’s direct competition and –when Zuckerberg couldn’t give an answer — asking the CEO if he considers his company a monopoly (which drew laughter when he answered he didn’t see it that way). Graham pointed out that if he wasn’t happy with a specific model of a car, he had many other car options, but where does one go if they aren’t happy with FB? There’s no social media app that has the caliber of which FB does.
Yes there’s Myspace, but keep in mind, Myspace existed before FB, and offered a few things FB still doesn’t, like customizing your own page with different designs and adding music. However, the connection that FB has with the world, being able to reach over lands and oceans to talk to anyone was not present on Myspace and what led to its sharp decline in users.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called out Zuckerberg and his “apology tour”, saying that it’s in FB’s business model to monetize privacy and that CEO’s vague commitments gave him no assurances.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Zuckerberg about Russian interference on FB regarding the 2016 election and why some unverified, yet obvious Russian troll farm pages are still up, prompting Zuckerberg to say he and his team are working on verifying pages. Leahy said that perhaps FB should be working on identifying hateful people as opposed to pages.
And, that was the crux of the whole hearing; as nervous as Zuckerberg was, no one held him accountable for his gross negligence on users’ privacy. Senators only got about 4-5 minutes to question him, often interrupting Zuckerberg when he was going on tangents, but he mostly stated that he was sorry and they were working on being better and that seemed to be enough for Congress. But, that’s all that Zuckerberg’s done since the conception of FB, as Vox pointed out.
The first day of the hearing was a let down, with Congress giving Zuckerberg the “we’re very disappointed in you” parental speech and Zuckerberg promising mom and dad that he’ll step up. If anything came from this, we see that Zuckerberg is just another reckless billionaire, playing with people’s lives because he can afford to do it.
Protect your privacy and find out if you’ve been breached here. You can watch highlights from the hearing up above.