Testimony on Capitol Hill: Day 1

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Spanning two days and approximately nine hours of dialogue, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, withstood questioning from United States government officials on the social media platform’s ability to secure its users’ privacy. 

Founded in 2004, Facebook has grown to be the one of the most widely used social networking platform to date with more than 2.2 billion active users monthly as of January of this year. 

On April 10, 2018, Zuckerberg testified in front of members of the Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. As Senator Charles Grassley said at the start of the hearing, “The issues we will consider range from data privacy and security to consumer protection…”. Many committee members questioned Zuckerberg on Facebook’s policy to protect its users after a stint during the 2016 presidential election campaign, resulting in over 80 million users’ information being scraped from the site by Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at Cambridge University. 

Kogan developed a survey application and partnered with Facebook for users to voluntarily participate in. However, unbeknownst to survey takers, theirs—and potentially their ‘friends’ on the platforms’—private information was secretly acquired. Kogan then sold the data collected from his application to Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, that had ties with the Trump campaign.  

When pressed to answer how Facebook will protect its users’ privacy, Zuckerberg said, “… we’re now conducting a full investigation into every single app that had access to a large amount of information, before we locked down platforms to prevent developers from accessing this information around 2014.” 

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook’s policy in the past would check for patterns of how partnered applications have used their Application Programming Interfaces (API) and accessed information, along with paying close attention to what users have reported when using particular applications. 

To push the point that Facebook has is willing to do whatever it takes to protect its users’ privacy, Zuckerberg said, “Going forward, we’re going to take a more proactive position on this and do much more regular stock checks and other reviews of apps, as well as increasing the amount of audits that we do.” 

The dialogue between Zuckerberg and committee members was centered around clarifying what many users may or may not know about the terms of agreement signed when creating a Facebook account. The recurring point Zuckerberg made is about reassuring that users are “in control” of their data, meaning that they choose how much of their personal information to share with the on the social media platform. 

When asked a question he was unable to answer, usually referring to exact numbers or specific legislation, Zuckerberg would usually opt to respond by saying he and his team will respond to the committee after the testimony. As to when or if this information will be shared with the public is not yet known. 


To read the full transcript of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in Capitol Hill, visit The Washington Post’s website. Video/Audio footage of the testimony is available on multiple media platforms for your viewing experience. 


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