Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke to several congressional boards this week on privacy and public use of Facebook. Today we’re running down the many questions which seemed to make Zuckerberg nervous or otherwise ended up with an answer by Zuckerberg that could’ve been called “dodging the question.” The judgements I and we make here are subjective – keep that in mind whilst perusing the list.
The hearing began yesterday, the 10th of April, 2018. The first session lasted around 6 hours, and the second session is set to take place over just as long a period of time. The overall questioning session may seem long to the casual onlooker, but the amount of time each congressional representative is given to ask questions is laughable. Each representative gets a total of 5 minutes to ask questions of Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg was asked about any sort of punishment that Facebook staff members received as a result of “the problems with data use.” He didn’t exactly answer – but to be fair, the question was posed in a sort of nonsensical manner to start with.
Florida representative Gus Bilirakis asked about an everyday citizen attempting to get “a range of personal information” removed from “an organiation’s page” on Facebook. He asked why it was that congress needed to be involved to get this private information removed from Facebook. Zuckerberg’s first suggested that artificial intelligence was the solution – but followed up saying he didn’t know when AI would truly arrive.
Zuckerberg seems to be out of his element whenever “shadow profiles” are brought up. To Congressman Jerry McErney, Zuckerberg suggested that anyone can opt out of data tracking. McErney pointed out that some people haven’t signed up for Facebook in the first place, so cannot be considered to have opted in in the first place.
A question of user tracking came up via Representative Billy Long. He asked whether people are being tracked outside of Facebook. Zuckerberg suggested that the user is in control of what’s being tracked, but that users might be tracked on Facebook even if they’re not logged in.
Representative David McKinley asked why it was so easy to “buy opioids” on Facebook. McKinley added, “You are hurting people. Do you agree with that statement?” Zuckerberg needed to pause before answering. He then summoned his AI line of reasoning for the future, once again, saying, “The sheer volume of content on Facebook means no amount of people can vet all content on Facebook.”
Committees in the hearing included: Communications and Technology, Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, Energy, Environment, Health, and the committee on Oversight and Investigations. Each of these committees were a part of the 115th congress as of April 2018.
Above you’ll see the full video of Zuckerberg speaking with Congress. You’ll want to strap after you microwave yourself some popcorn. It’s a relatively long hearing if one watches it for the entertainment of the situation. Compared to other hearings of this nature that’ve happened in the past, on the other hand, Zuckerberg’s gotten off easy so far.