Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Zuckerberg testifies before Senate, takes responsibility for data misuse

CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee joint hearing on ‘Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 10 April 2018. Zuckerberg is testifying before two Congressional hearings this week regarding Facebook allowing third-party applications to collect the data of its users without their permission and for the company’s response to Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. EFE

Washington DC, Apr 10 (EFE).- The Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Tuesday testified before the United States Congress over a massive data misuse involving a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, in an unprecedented hearing during which he faced harsh interrogation from lawmakers of both US parties.

In his first public appearance before the US Congress, US senators demanded more details on how Facebook collects and uses the user data, as well as on the measures that the social media giant is taking to avoid similar incidents in which “fake news” was circulated on the social media site by foreigners.

Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged before a rare joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees that “we (Facebook) didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility,” saying that it was “a big mistake” to have granted Cambridge Analytica access to a massive amount of personal data, which were improperly used to back the electoral campaign of the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here,” he said.

“My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together. Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that, as long as I am running Facebook,” added the Facebook founder.

However, Zuckerberg acknowledged that “it’s not enough to just build dots” between people, adding “we need to make sure that they’re used for good.”

“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.

When asked by the senators about the possible interference of foreign agents in his company, Zuckerberg responded that avoiding such a situation is “one of my top priorities in 2018,” while adding that “one of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016,” referring to the suspected Russian interference in the US presidential elections.

Zuckerberg noted that his social media company identified “tens of thousands of fake accounts” during the presidential elections, and removed 470 of them after they were verified to have spread false information on Facebook.

Protesters stand up with signs before the testimony of CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg (not pictured) at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee joint hearing on ‘Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 10 April 2018. Zuckerberg is testifying before two Congressional hearings this week regarding Facebook allowing third-party applications to collect the data of its users without their permission and for the company’s response to Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. EFE

On this matter, Zuckerberg assured that his company is working with the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller on issues related to the possible interference of Moscow in the 2016 US presidential election.

The Facebook founder also said that several members of his team have been interviewed as part of the probe into the Russian interference plot, but avoided giving details so as not to violate confidentiality.

“I actually am not aware of a subpoena. I believe that there may be, but I know we’re working with them,” Zuckerberg said, while clarifying that he has not been personally interviewed by Mueller’s office.

The Facebook CEO, who appeared on Tuesday in suit and tie in contrast to his regular casual attire, tried to calm the concerns of the US Congress and promised to make significant reforms in his company to reinforce its privacy policies and prevent foreign actors from manipulating the social media platform.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm, as well. And that goes for fake news, for foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy,” Zuckerberg admitted.

The Facebook CEO also listed a series of measures that are being carried out to tackle other similar issues, such as “investigating tens of thousands of applications” connected to the platform.

“And, if we find any suspicious activity, we’re going to conduct a full audit of those apps to understand how they’re using their data and if they’re doing anything improper,” he concluded.

Zuckerberg then explained that by the end of 2018 his company will have a total of 20,000 staff working exclusively on security and content review to complement its strategy and prevent further Cambridge Analytica-like incidents.

Demands of increased regulation over the Internet and social network sites, not just Facebook, were constantly raised throughout the hearing, which will resume its second session on Thursday in the US House of Representatives.

Democrat Senator Bill Nelson warned that the US Congress will “have to” do something, “if Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions.”