Facebook privacy discussions continued this week. Mark Zuckerberg answered questions – a lot of them – but only when he knew the answer. “My team will get back to you” was one of the themes of the congressional hearings. I’m sure you were busy working and didn’t get to listen to the full two days of hearings.
Here Are a Few Outstanding Moments from the Facebook Congressional Hearing
- The Twitterverse gave the win to Zuck and ridiculed our politicians for not getting it.
- Ted Cruz grilled Zuck but appeared to have forgotten that in Dec 2015, The Guardian revealed his campaign harvested the information of millions of Facebook users… through Cambridge Analytica. In fact, they did so before the Trump campaign did.
- The Internetz questioned why the above-mentioned Guardian article didn’t lead to a congressional hearing back in 2015/2016.
- Zuck made it clear that to him and his organization, Facebook is the social network that offers their users the most control over their privacy settings. And we agree. But he also acknowledged that most people probably aren’t clear on Facebook’s terms or the tools available to them to secure their accounts: He vowed to make the features more clear.
- Zuck delivered subtle punches: He was asked if they should take a break and he said no. Zuck’s time is money, people!
- Third party apps that you may have given permission to have started disconnecting some of their access before they get into trouble. So if you are trying to log onto an app on your phone and it’s prompting you to log back in, that’s why.
- It is by opt-in only (yes, really, truly, absolutely opt-in only). After the third time, he said it I was more frustrated than Zuck. Yes, Facebook gave access after Facebook users opted in to share information with the app through which Aleksandr Kogan (the researcher who sold the data to Cambridge Analytica) collected the data under false pretenses. However, Facebook primarily failed in two areas:
- 1. They didn’t do due diligence to check Kogan’s request or their terms and thus didn’t catch that the quiz was a scam.
- 2. They didn’t notify Facebook users when they discovered the problem in 2014/2015 (estimated, but before the Guardian article).
Overall, the hearing was just theatrics. The interviewers went through the motions with very little thought put behind their questions. They seemed more concerned with asking as many questions in their allotted time than with listening. A number of times Zuck started making privacy recommendations that would be applied universally, but got interrupted and scolded for taking up too much time. I still want to know what he wanted to say.
My favorite moment came when Zuck was asked if he believed European privacy laws should be applied in the US. Our legislators did not know that Facebook actually abides by those laws… because you know, Facebook is actually available in Europe too… But do other US data companies? And would they? Laws like that would place a heavy burden on credit bureaus, for example. Yes, they’ve been freely selling our data, without opt-in, for decades.
UPDATE: Since GDPR went into effect in the European Union in May 2018, all companies that operate in Europe have had to adapt and change their privacy policies.
I was invited back to Fox 32 Chicago this week to chat about what you can do to protect your information. You will catch me on TastyTrade next Thursday to answer more questions.
“Elon Musk chided The Economist on Twitter today for being “just boring,” and bumped Tesla’s stock price in the process.”