13 Apr Mark Zuckerberg’s Testimony – What We Learned
For more than 11 hours over 2 days, Mark Zuckerberg sat in front of lawmakers, testifying on behalf of Facebook. It was largely due to the Cambridge Analytica data breach, but also because lawmakers believe that Facebook – and the tech industry as a whole – needs to be regulated.
Facebook was founded in Zuckerberg’s dorm room. After a hacking scandal and a lot of apologies to the school and his fellow students, the idea for Facebook was born. Or, that’s how the story goes.
The social media site has always been designed around self-regulation. Users control how much or little they want to share with other users, and vice versa. When it came time for Facebook to start generating cash flow, the company began running ads. This is where the waters became murky.
Facebook designs algorithms specifically so that users only see content that they want to see, or that Facebook knows they want to see. How do they know this content? They track your data: who and what you like, who you ignore, where else you visit on the Internet when the Facebook app is still open on your phone. All of this creates a digital footprint, or online persona, of who you are. This is the information that helps social sites like Facebook stay afloat.
When the Cambridge Analytica issue first appeared, Facebook thought they had quashed it. However, more users’ information had been leaked than they originally thought, including Zuckerberg’s. Lawmakers wanted Zuckerberg to help them calm their constituents. These are the hard facts we learned from his testimony:
- Zuckerberg indicated that he would be open to several ideas for regulating the tech industry. The CEO said he was not opposed to a rule suggested by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, that users should be notified within 72 hours that their privacy had been breached—a provision in upcoming European privacy regulations.
- He confirmed that his company was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
- Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who sold the data to Cambridge Analytica, also sold the data to a “handful” of other companies.
It is still up to us as users of social sites to determine what we do or don’t want floating around the Internet. While this is a clear breach of privacy, this is an example of how we need to have a clearer grasp of social media and its implications in the real world. It doesn’t seem like Facebook will face any real punishment – stock is already back up, and most of the lawmakers treated Zuckerberg like quite the celebrity – but this does force tech companies to take a step back and think about how we communicate the idea of privacy to users, and how we can better protect it ourselves.