Until this week, Facebook users didn't know if their data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica. Now you can find out.More >>
Until this week, Facebook users didn't know if their data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica. Now you can find out.More >>
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg began a two-day congressional inquisition Tuesday with a public apology for a privacy scandal that has roiled the social media giant he founded more than a decade ago.
Zuckerberg opened his remarks before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees by taking responsibility for failing to prevent Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump's presidential campaign, from gathering personal information from 87 million users to try to influence elections.
Find out if Cambridge Analytica grabbed your data on Facebook
Zuckerberg had apologized many times already, to users and the public, but this was the first time in his career that he had gone before Congress. He also is to testify Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In the hearings, Zuckerberg is not only trying to restore public trust in his company but also to stave off federal regulations that some lawmakers have floated. In his opening statement to senators, he also apologized for fake news, hate speech, a lack of data privacy and Russian social media interference in the 2016 elections.
"We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake," he said. "It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here."
Separately, the company also began alerting users that their data was gathered by Cambridge Analytica. A notification that appeared on Facebook for some users Tuesday told them that "one of your friends" used Facebook to log into a now-banned personality quiz app called "This Is Your Digital Life." The notice says the app misused the information, including public profiles, page likes, birthdays and current cities, by sharing it with Cambridge Analytica.
After resisting previous calls to testify, Zuckerberg agreed to come to Capitol Hill this month after reports surfaced - and the company confirmed - that Cambridge Analytica had gathered Facebook users' data. Zuckerberg said his company has a responsibility to make sure what happened with Cambridge Analytica doesn't happen again.
Zuckerberg is also expected to be asked about Russia's use of U.S. social media during the 2016 elections - a subject of several congressional investigations and special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference.
In his opening statement, Zuckerberg addressed Russian election interference and acknowledged, as he has in the past, that the company was too slow to respond and that it's "working hard to get better." The company has said that as many as 146 million people may have received information from a Russian agency that's accused of orchestrating much of the cyber meddling in the election.
"We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference, and we will do our part not only to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, but also to give everyone a voice and to be a force for good in democracy everywhere," Zuckerberg continued.
In the testimony, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the questioning could be hostile.
"We face a number of important issues around privacy, safety, and democracy, and you will rightfully have some hard questions for me to answer," Zuckerberg said.
His opening statement does not reveal new information about how data was shared or what Facebook will do. In addition to saying he is sorry, Zuckerberg outlined the steps the company has taken to restrict outsiders' access to people's personal information. He also said the company is investigating every app that had access to a large amount of information before the company moved to prevent such access in 2014 - actions that came too late in the Cambridge Analytica case.
Zuckerberg met Monday with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce panel, along with other senators. Nelson said afterward that Zuckerberg was "forthright and honest to the degree he could" be in the private, one-on-one meeting.
Nelson said he believes Zuckerberg is taking the congressional hearings seriously "because he knows there is going to be a hard look at regulation."
Democrats like Nelson have argued that federal laws might be necessary to ensure user privacy. Republicans have yet to get behind any such legislation, but that could change.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary panel and the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, appeared open to regulation in a Tuesday floor speech ahead of the hearing. Cornyn said apologies are "not enough" and suggested that legislation could eventually be needed to give consumers more control over their own data privacy.
"This is a serious matter, and I think people expect us to take action," Cornyn told reporters after his speech.
(NBC News) - Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress Tuesday afternoon.
Zuckerberg is the sole witness Today before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees.
He answered questions about Facebook's consumer data privacy issues -- specifically the revelation that data firm Cambridge Analytica misused data from up to 87 million users.
Zuckerberg apologized and the social media site has announced technical changes intended to address privacy issues.
In documents posted on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation website, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, "It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here." See his full remarks here.
Prepared Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee Joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce Committee Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data on April 10, 2018.
Sen. Grassley: "The history and growth of Facebook mirrors that of many of our technology giants. Founded by Mr. Zuckerberg in 2004, Facebook has exploded over the last 14 years. Facebook currently has 2.13 billion monthly active users across the world, more than 25,000 employees, and offices in 13 U.S. cities and various other countries. Like their expanding user base, the data collected on Facebook users has also skyrocketed. They have moved on from schools, likes, and relationship status. Today, Facebook has access to dozens of data points, ranging from ads you’ve clicked on, events you’ve attended, and your location based on your mobile device. It is no secret that Facebook makes money off this data through advertising revenue, although many seem confused by, or altogether unaware, of this fact. Facebook generated $40 billion in revenue in 2017, with about 98 percent coming from advertising across Facebook and Instagram. Significant data collection is also occurring at Google, Twitter, Apple, and Amazon. An ever-expanding portfolio of products and services offered by these companies grant endless opportunities to collect increasing amounts of information on their customers. As we get more free, or extremely low-cost, services, the tradeoff for the American consumer is to provide more personal data. The potential for further growth and innovation based on the collection of data is limitless. However, the potential for abuse is significant. While the contours of the Cambridge Analytica situation are still coming to light, there was clearly a breach of consumer trust and a likely improper transfer of data. The Judiciary Committee will hold a separate hearing exploring Cambridge and other data privacy issues. More importantly though, these events have ignited a larger discussion on consumers’ expectations and the future of data privacy in our society. It has exposed that consumers may not fully understand or appreciate the extent to which their data is collected, protected, transferred, used and misused. Data has been used in advertising and political campaigns for decades. The amount and types of data obtained, however, has seen a dramatic change. Campaigns, including President Bush, Obama, and Trump, all used these increasing amounts of data to focus on micro-targeting and personalization over numerous social media platforms, especially Facebook. In fact, President Obama’s campaign developed an app utilizing the same Facebook feature as Cambridge Analytica to capture the information of not just the apps users, but millions of their friends. The digital director for Obama for America 2012 described the data-scraping app as something that would “wind up being the most groundbreaking piece of technology developed for this campaign” The effectiveness of these social media tactics can be debated, but their use over the past years across the political spectrum and their increased significance cannot. Our policy towards data privacy and security must keep pace with these changes. Data privacy should be tethered to consumer needs and expectations. At a minimum, consumers must have the transparency necessary to make informed decisions about whether to share their data and how it can be used. Consumers ought to have clear information, not opaque policies and complex click-through consent pages. The tech industry has an obligation to respond to widespread and growing concerns over data privacy and security and to restore the public trust. The status quo no longer works. Moreover, Congress must determine if and how we need to strengthen privacy standards to ensure transparency and understanding for the billions of consumers who utilize these products."
South Dakota Senator John Thune - (R) shared the following remarks during the hearing.
Sen. Thune: "After more than a decade of promises to do better, how is today's apology different? Why should we trust Facebook to make the necessary changes to ensure user privacy?"— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 10, 2018
Zuckerberg: "I'm committed to getting this right... I believe people will see real differences." pic.twitter.com/p6ztOGpgZJ
Chairman John Thune: "Today’s hearing is extraordinary. It’s extraordinary to hold a joint committee hearing.
It’s even more extraordinary for a single CEO to testify before nearly half the U.S. Senate. But then, Facebook is pretty extraordinary.
More than two billion people use Facebook every month. 1.4 billion people use it every day – more than the population of any country on Earth except China, and more than four times the population of the United States. It’s also more than fifteen hundred times the population of my home state of South Dakota.
Plus, roughly 45 percent of American adults report getting at least some of their news from Facebook. In many respects, Facebook’s incredible reach is why we’re here today.
We’re here because of what you, Mr. Zuckerberg, have described as a breach of trust. A quiz app used by approximately 300,000 people led to information about 87 million Facebook users being obtained by the company Cambridge Analytica.
There are plenty of questions about the behavior of Cambridge Analytica, and we expect to hold a future hearing on Cambridge and similar firms. But as you’ve said, this is not likely to be an isolated incident—a fact demonstrated by Facebook’s suspension of another firm just this past weekend.
You’ve promised that, when Facebook discovers other apps that had access to large amounts of user data, you will ban them and tell those affected. That’s appropriate. But it’s unlikely to be enough for the two billion Facebook users.
One reason so many people are worried about this incident is what is says about how Facebook works. The idea that—for every one person who decided to try an app—information about nearly 300 other people was scraped from your service is, to put it mildly, disturbing.
And the fact that those 87 million people may have technically consented to making their data available doesn’t make most people feel any better.
The recent revelation that malicious actors were able to utilize Facebook’s default privacy settings to match email addresses and phone numbers found on the so-called “Dark Web” to public Facebook profiles – potentially affecting all Facebook users – only adds fuel to the fire. What binds these two incidents is that they don’t appear to be caused by the kind of negligence that allows typical data breaches to happen.
Instead, they both appear to be the result of people exploiting the very tools you’ve created to manipulate users’ information. I know Facebook has taken several steps – and intends to take more – to address these issues. Nevertheless, some have warned that the actions Facebook is taking to ensure third parties don’t obtain data from unsuspecting users – while necessary – will actually serve to enhance Facebook’s own ability to market such data exclusively.
Most of us understand that – whether we’re using Facebook or Google or other online services – we are trading certain information about ourselves for free or low-cost services. But for this model to persist, both sides of the bargain need to know the stakes involved. Right now, I’m not convinced that Facebook’s users have the information they need to make meaningful choices.
In the past, many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have been willing to defer to tech companies’ efforts to regulate themselves. But this may be changing. Just last month, in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, Congress voted to make it easier for prosecutors and victims to go after websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. This should be a wake-up call for the tech community. We want to hear more – without delay – about what Facebook and other companies plan to do to take greater responsibility for what happens on their platforms.
How will you protect users’ data? How will you inform users about the changes you are making? And how do you intend to proactively stop harmful conduct, instead of being forced to respond to it months or years later? Mr. Zuckerberg, in many ways you and the company you’ve created represent the American Dream. Many are incredibly inspired by what you’ve done. At the same time, you have an obligation to ensure that dream doesn’t become a privacy nightmare for the scores of people who use Facebook. This hearing is an opportunity to speak to those who believe in Facebook and those who are deeply skeptical about it. We are listening. America is listening. And, quite possibly, the world is listening too."
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