Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a joint hearing of the US Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committee in the light of data privacy scandal. In opening remarks of two days of Congressional hearings, Zuckerberg admitted the company did not do enough to prevent its user data being accessed. The Facebook CEO has said that going forward, the company will take a more “proactive position” on deletion of “improperly” transferred data. Here’s a look at the most important points that Zuckerberg made when he was asked questions by the US Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committee.
A paid option for users who do not want their Facebook information used for advertising?
The Facebook CEO was asked whether the company is considering a paid option for users who do not want their personal information exploited for advertising. Last week, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told NBC News that the company could roll out a tool that will give users an option to restrict the profile data that Facebook uses to target ads.
Mark Zuckerberg clarified that Facebook already offers controls to turn off third-party information that will prevent the platform from using personal data for targeting ads. On the paid model, Zuckerberg said for that to happen, the company would need another business model.
“What we found is that even though some people don’t like ads, people really don’t like ads that aren’t relevant. And while there is some discomfort for sure with using information in making ads more relevant, the overwhelming feedback that we get from our community is that people would rather have us show relevant content there than not,” he said.
Data leaks other than Cambridge Analytica
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if the company knew about other instances where user data was “improperly transferred to third-party in breach of Facebook’s terms.” He asked, “If so, how many times has that happened, and was Facebook only made aware of that transfer by some third-party.” To this Zuckerberg replied that the company is conducting a full investigation into every single app that had access to a large amount of information.
“We believe that we’re going to be investigating many apps, tens of thousands of apps. And, if we find any suspicious activity, we’re going to conduct a full audit of those apps to understand how they’re using their data and if they’re doing anything improper. If we find that they’re doing anything improper, we’ll ban them from Facebook and we will tell everyone affected,” he added.
Why does Facebook not disclose to users the way data is used by them and third parties
Senator Grassley also asked why does Facebook not disclose to its users all the ways that data might be used by the platform and other third-party apps. The Facebook CEO said that the service gives its users enough details on how their information will be used on Facebook.
“…Every single time you go to share something on Facebook, whether it’s a photo in Facebook, or a message — in Messenger or What’s App, every single time, there’s a control right there about who you’re going to be sharing it with — whether it’s your friends or public or a specific group — and you can — you can change that and control that in line,” he replied.
Believing Cambridge Analytica was a mistake
Zuckerberg admitted that believing that Cambridge Analytica had deleted the data, when it was first caught in 2015, was a mistake. “When we learned in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had bought data from an app developer on Facebook that people had shared it with, we did take action. We took down the app, and we demanded that both the app developer and Cambridge Analytica delete and stop using any data that they had. They told us that they did this. In retrospect, it was clearly a mistake to believe them…,” he admitted.
Zuckerberg admitted they had “made a lot of mistakes in running the company.” “I think it’s — it’s pretty much impossible, I — I believe, to start a company in your dorm room and then grow it to be at the scale that we’re at now without making some mistakes,” he added.
“What I think we’ve learned now across a number of issues — not just data privacy, but also fake news and foreign interference in elections — is that we need to take a more proactive role and a broader view of our responsibility. It’s not enough to just build tools. We need to make sure that they’re used for good,” said the Facebook CEO. He said he was “committed to getting this right,” and that people will see real differences in the coming years.
On what Facebook is doing to prevent interference in the US elections
The Facebook CEO said it was his top priorities in 2018 to get the US elections right. Facebook has launched new Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, supposed to “do a better job of identifying fake accounts that may be trying to interfere in elections or spread misinformation.” Zuckerberg admitted that the company was slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016.
“And the nature of these attacks, though, is that, you know, there are people in Russia whose job it is — is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems, and other systems, as well,” the Facebook CEO said. He added that this is an arms race and Facebook needs to “invest in keeping on getting better at this, too…”
On whether Facebook will always be free
Zuckerberg was asked by the United States Senator for Utah Orrin Hatch whether Facebook would always be free. The Facebook CEO said that there will always be a version of Facebook that is free. “It is our mission to try to help connect everyone around the world and to bring the world closer together. In order to do that, we believe that we need to offer a service that everyone can afford, and we’re committed to doing that,” the Facebook CEO said.
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