As requested, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of US Congress to be probed over the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal. While the questions mostly pertained to the data harvesting itself and the subsequent aftermath, many were directed at Facebook’s monopolisation and regulation.
Zuckerberg used cookie cutter statements for many of the questions surrounding Cambridge Analytica, continuing to admit fault as he has done since first piped up on the matter. “Senator, I think — yes, they did not want their information to be sold to Cambridge Analytica by a developer. That happened, and it happened on our watch.”
Congress then pushed Zuckerberg on how it was handled in the aftermath, noting that Facebook didn’t notify US Congress of the illegitimate use of data, nor did the platform follow up on the claimed deletion of data. Zuckerberg’s reasoning was that it was “considered a closed case,” but overall it seems that he acknowledges it was poorly handled.
Attempting to quell the supposed misconception surrounding Facebook’s monetisation, Zuckerberg clarified that its money comes from advertisements, and the data it hoovers up is simply to help gear those advertisements in a more direct way.
Image: Zuckerberg before the US Congress on Day 1
Interestingly, when asked if Facebook would ever transition into a premium paid-for model, Zuckerberg was quick to assure everyone that there would always be some version of Facebook that was free and accessible to the general public.
Facebook itself is the biggest money-maker of all social media sites, prompting Zuckerberg to stumble a little when poked about the platform’s monopolisation. While he claims that the company doesn’t have one, he failed to list any true competitor.
One of the more pungent moments was when Zuckerberg was asked to divulge information on what hotel he stayed at the night prior to the meeting, along with other personal information with his current peers. Naturally, he refused, resulting in the comparison of Facebook’s entire nature of invading such privacy even when the user has logged out.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Congress is how influential Facebook is over politics, which is where this scandal originated from. Having affected at least 87 million users, the data taken was then allegedly used to construct a political profile for US residents.
Moving forward, Zuckerberg realises that regulations are inevitably going to be imposed on the social media site. “My position is not that there should be no regulation,” answers Zuckerberg. “I think the real question as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives is what is the right regulation.”
2018 is a big year for the company, with Zuckerberg emphasising that it will be putting more policies in place to prevent this from happening again. All in all, self-regulation will help Facebook suffer less than at the hands of third-party regulations, so the company CEO certainly has his motivation.
KitGuru Says: Overall, it looks like Zuckerberg’s meeting with Congress has shed some light on aspects of Facebook, but no real consequence has come of the recent actions just yet. In the meantime, those that disagree with Facebook’s data handling have no choice but to remove themselves from the platform, which doesn’t seem like a plausible solution for the majority out there.