Published: Fri, April 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Lila Blake

US Reps. McKinley, Johnson Blast Facebook CEO Over Ads

US Reps. McKinley, Johnson Blast Facebook CEO Over Ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up two days of testimony before joint committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In an awkward exchange with Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, Zuckerberg said he did not know the details of two class-action lawsuits that Facebook had settled over privacy concerns related to data gathering techniques it has since changed.

"If you're logged into Facebook and visit a website with the Like button, your browser sends us information about your visit", Facebook says.

In his opening remarks at US Congress, he said: "Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company".

Introduced by the European Union, GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation requires that the company's request for user consent in a clear and concise way, using language that is understandable, and be clearly distinguishable from other pieces of information, including terms and conditions.

For all the generally polite exchanges in the committee room, feedback after the hearings suggest that lawmakers were not unduly impressed by the Facebook chief and his willingness to institute meaningful change at his company. "A lot of times regulations put in place rules that a company that is larger, that has resources like ours, can easily comply with, but that might be more hard for a smaller startup company".

Despite being the head honcho, Zuckerberg himself also revealed that he was included in the data "sold to the malicious third parties", which likely isn't surprising given that pretty much every user on the platform was affected.

The hearings that ended on Wednesday revealed no consensus among United States lawmakers about what kind of privacy legislation they might want to pursue, if any, and no timeline for action.

The data scandal wiped away tens of billions of dollars from Facebook's market value, prompted political scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic and even raised the once unthinkable question of whether Zuckerberg should step down as CEO.

It was a room that didn't have a lot of sympathy for the 33-year-old Facebook founder who appeared in front of Congress to answer questions and apologize about his company's failure to protect users' information in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Zuckerberg was unable to answer Dingell, the MI congresswoman, when she asked how frequently Facebook used computer code embedded in websites to gather dossiers on virtually everyone online.

Schatz then asked whether private messages are informing the ads people see and whether browsing habits and likes are being collected, to which Zuckerberg claimed: "I'm not sure I fully understand this".

Zuckerberg has earlier said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere.

"Let me tell you something right now", Blackburn interjected.

Cambridge Analytica reportedly accessed Facebook data of 87 million users.

Zuckerberg also confirmed reports on so-called shadow profiles, profiles of people who did not sign up for Facebook but are still being tracked.

Zuckerberg agreed to the hearings as pressure mounted over the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the company's own admission previous year that it had been compromised by Russians trying to influence the 2016 election. "That allows them to sort of see where you're going, and that's why ads can follow you around".

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