Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will convene a hearing titled “Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data,” at 2:15 p.m. on April 10, 2018, in Hart Room 216.
“Facebook now plays a critical role in many social relationships, informing Americans about current events, and pitching everything from products to political candidates,” said Thune. “Our joint hearing will be a public conversation with the CEO of this powerful and influential company about his vision for addressing problems that have generated significant concern about Facebook’s role in our democracy, bad actors using the platform, and user privacy.”
“Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, using data to connect people from around the world. With all of the data exchanged over Facebook and other platforms, users deserve to know how their information is shared and secured. This hearing will explore approaches to privacy that satisfy consumer expectations while encouraging innovation,” Grassley said.
- Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer, Facebook
Joint Hearing Details:
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Hart Room 216
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.
Let me get to the point, one that I made to Mr. Zuckerberg yesterday during our lengthy conversation in my office. If Facebook and other social media and online companies don’t do a better job as stewards of our personal information, American consumers are no longer going to have any privacy to protect.
From the minute consumers wake up to the minute they put down their smartphone at the end of the day, online companies like Facebook are tracking their activities and collecting information. Facebook has a responsibility to protect this personal information.
Unfortunately, I believe that the company failed to do so. This is not the first time that Facebook has mishandled its users’ information. The Federal Trade Commission found that Facebook’s privacy policies had deceived users in the past.
In the present case, I recognize that Cambridge Analytica and an app developer lied to consumers and lied to Facebook. But did Facebook watch over their operations? And why didn’t Facebook notify eighty-seven million users when it discovered that Cambridge Analytica had inappropriately gotten hold of their sensitive information and was using it for unauthorized political purposes?
Only now has Facebook pledged to inform those consumers whose accounts were compromised. I know Mr. Zuckerberg wants to do the right thing and enact reforms, but will it be enough? I hope to get some answers today.
Lastly, we still don’t know exactly what Cambridge Analytica has done with this data. That’s why I have asked Chairman Thune to haul Cambridge Analytica in to answer these questions at a separate hearing. I want to thank the chairman for working with me on scheduling a hearing in the near future.
There is obviously a great deal of interest in this subject, and I hope that we can get to the bottom line. That is, if Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix these privacy invasions, then we will. How can American consumers trust them to be caretakers of their most personal and identifiable information?
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Mark ZuckerbergChief Executive Officer
Mr. Mark ZuckerbergChief Executive Officer - FacebookSenate Commerce Committee Combined Questions for the Record
Mr Mark ZuckerbergChief Executive Officer - FacebookSenate Judiciary Committee Combined Questions for the Record