Friday , 19 October 2018
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Zuck in DC: What We Learned about Facebook’s Data Practices

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg faces a second day of grilling before Congress today. Yesterday, Zuckerberg spent five hours fielding questions about how his company handles users’ personal data and how it plans to prevent others from misusing that information to spread false news stories, manipulate public opinion, fuel hate, and affect elections.

In what many noted was poetic irony, considering the large volume of private data Facebook gathers about its users, Zuckerberg’s printed notes from yesterday’s hearings were captured in a photograph by AP photographer Andrew Harnik. Among other things, the snapshot revealed Zuckerberg’s prepared responses to “attack” comments by officials (“Respectfully, I reject that. Not who we are.”) and acknowledgments that the company has been slow in improving how it handles data.

Zuckerberg was called to testify following multiple news reports in recent weeks detailing how Facebook data was used without people’s knowledge to target likely voters for President Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election, drive misinformation campaigns by malicious actors in Russia and elsewhere, and enable ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

Facebook ‘Doesn’t Feel Like’ a Monopoly

A number of observers concluded that Zuckerberg generally handled the questioning well during his appearance before a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Others criticized senators for asking softball questions or revealing how little they understood about the technical complexities they were investigating.

However, some questions clearly put Zuckerberg on the spot. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina), for example, asked whether Facebook has any meaningful competition.

“If I buy a Ford, and it doesn’t work well, and I don’t like it, I can buy a Chevy,” Graham noted. “If I’m upset with Facebook, what’s the equivalent product that I can go sign up for? . . ….


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