Continuing his efforts to improve personal privacy in the digital age, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) led a hearing to examine Facebook’s policies for protecting the personal information of its users. Walden, who serves as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for answers about the social media giant’s use of consumer data.
“The American people are concerned about how Facebook protects and profits from its users’ data. In short, does Facebook keep its end of the agreement with its users?,” said Walden. “People are willing to share quite a bit about their lives online based on the belief that they can easily navigate and control privacy settings and trust that their personal information is in good hands. If a company fails to keep its promises about how personal data are being used, that breach of trust must have consequences.”
Click here to view Walden’s questions during the hearing
During the hearing, Walden questioned Mr. Zuckerberg about how clearly the company describes its operations to its users, and whether or not the public has a full understanding of how Facebook uses their personal information.
“You have recently said that you and Facebook have not done a good job of explaining what Facebook does,” said Walden. “Back in 2012 and 2013 when a lot of this scraping of user and friend data was happening, did it ever cross your mind that you should be communicating more clearly with users about how Facebook is monetizing their data? I understand that Facebook does not sell user data per se, but it is also just as true that Facebook’s user data is probably the most valuable thing about Facebook. In fact, it may be the only truly valuable thing about Facebook. Why wasn’t explaining what Facebook does with users’ data a higher priority for you as a co-founder and now as CEO?”
Zuckerberg said that while there is a certain amount of control users have over how their information is shared on Facebook, there is not a broad understanding of how consumer data are shared with advertisers.
“I do think that we can do a better job of explaining how advertising works,” said Zuckerberg. “There is a common misperception, as you say, that keeps on being reported, that for some reason we sell data. I can’t be clearer on this topic: we don’t sell data. That’s not how advertising works, and I do think that we could probably be doing a clearer job of explaining that given the misperceptions that are out there.”
Walden concluded by raising the question of whether Congressional action is needed to help improve the protection of consumers’ data on platforms like Facebook.
“Given the situation, can you manage the issues that are before you? Or does Congress need to intercede?”, asked Walden.
The hearing Walden led today marked Mr. Zuckerberg’s first appearance as Facebook CEO before a Congressional committee in the House of Representatives.