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Thursday 2 April 2020

Zuckerberg unprepared to answer many questions

Zuckerberg, who will face three committees in two Congressional hearings this week, repeatedly said he was open to regulations, but that it would have to be the 'right' regulations with the right details

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Washington, DC: The owner of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg was still at the Capitol Hill testifying before US lawmakers at the time of filing of this report. Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, and Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy, are with him.

Zuckerberg has so far admitted before Senators that he had made mistakes and accepted the responsibility for the leakage of data of Facebook users.

Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon and chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, began the five-hour long hearing Tuesday by saying “while Facebook has grown, it is not clear it has matured.” The Republican proposed some regulation, saying that Facebook had become so powerful and may have “broken too many things”.

“Most Americans have no idea what they are signing up for because Facebook’s terms of service are beyond comprehension,” Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement after the hearing. He called Facebook a “virtual monopoly” and said that “continued self-regulation is not the right answer when it comes to dealing with the abuses we have seen on Facebook”.

Three senators introduced privacy legislation on Tuesday that would require users’ permission to collect and share their data.

Zuckerberg, who will face three committees in two Congressional hearings this week, repeatedly said he was open to regulations, but that it would have to be the “right” regulations with the right details. On Wednesday, the Facebook owner is being asked specifically to agree to privacy legislation that requires permission for data collection.

Questions Zuckerberg said he’d answer later

There are questions Senators asked on Tuesday that Zuckerberg said he was not prepared to answer. The Facebook owner has assured the legislators he would come back to them with the answers.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa wanted from Zuckerberg a list of applications that Facebook has previously banned because data was transferred in violation of the site’s terms. The senator also asked for the number of audits Facebook has conducted to ensure deletion of improperly transferred data, or “anything about the specific past stats that would be interesting”.

Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein from California asked Zuckerberg about the number of accounts the pro-Moscow propaganda company Internet Research Agency (IRA) has exploited, which Facebook has pulled down.

Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington asked whether some Facebook employees worked with Cambridge Analytica while the data analytics company was working with the Trump campaign.

Republican Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi inquired if the opt-in practice that holds for adults using Facebook Messenger on Android applies to minors as well (Facebook collects call or text history data for adults using Facebook Messenger on Android if they opt-in to using the application in combination with their messaging).

This Senator called further for a detailed explanation of if, and how, Facebook tracked a user’s internet browsing activity even after that user has logged off of Facebook’s platform. Zuckerberg could answer this partially. He said Facebook used cookies for security and ad-measuring purposes but added he would come back with a more precise response.

Zuckerberg couldn’t explain to Wicker how Facebook disclosed to its users the tracking practices that take place after users log off.

Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont was concerned about the specific “unverified divisive (Facebook) pages” he showed pictures of during the testimony. He wanted to know whether those were Russian-created groups.

A State-by-State breakdown of the 87 million profiles affected by Cambridge Analytica was sought by Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota and Republican Senator Dean Heller from Nevada.

Klobuchar inquired whether there was an overlap in the data of 126 million users accessed by Cambridge Analytica and those by the IRA. Zuckerberg did not rule out the overlap while saying his team was investigating it. Klobuchar further asked whether the stolen data was resting in Russia.

Zuckerberg had to explain to Senator Blunt how data on devices that are not logged into Facebook was treated.

Republican Senator Jerry Moran from Kansas was not concerned merely by unauthorised access of data but also by the impermissible sharing of information.

Democrat Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey asked why Facebook wanted the discrimination lawsuit against it dismissed. No harm was shown when people of colour were not recruited for different economic opportunities because of it, he argued.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado and Senator Heller asked Zuckerberg how long Facebook keeps users’ data after they delete their Facebook or Instagram account and whether it could remain in backup copies.

Democrat Senator Gary Peters from Michigan asked for a breakdown of the principles that would guide the development of artificial intelligence practices, the details about what those practices are and how they would help users.

Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin asked for a list of the firms that Aleksandr Kogan sold the data he collected to, other than Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg could identify Eunoia but said there may have been a couple of others.

Baldwin wanted more information on how Facebook was accounting for organisations based outside of the US when providing transparency around political ads.

Gardner asked whether the government or federal officials were able to track what a person’s doing with or without a warrant.

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