Facebook takes an ‘L’

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Senators grill the social media platform’s Mark Zuckerberg during Congressional hearings this week

In one of the most egregious privacy issues that the most popular social media platform faced, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg continued day two of aggressive questioning during Congressional hearings around privacy issues and Facebook’s problematic user agreement.

Sen. John Kennedy, (R-Louisiana), said succinctly during Tuesday’s Senate hearing: “Your Facebook user agreement sucks,” he said drawing laughter throughout the chamber. “The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end. It’s not to inform your users about their right. Now you know that, and I know that.”

Washington, DC / USA April 11, 2018: Anti-Facebook protesters await the arrival of Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill for another day of testifying.

Over the past two weeks, 33-year-old Zuckerberg has been on an apology tour following revelations that elections consultant company Cambridge Analytica siphoned users’ personal information by using a personality quiz. It was later learned that the company had ties to the 2016 election campaign of Donald Trump and is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of their possible connection to Russia.

Facebook has taken steps to inform users affected with a warning at the top of their Facebook news feeds. A page on the site also helps users determine if their information was shared with Cambridge Analytica.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce questioned Zuckerberg where he again started the hearings with an apology for Facebook’s mistakes. The company failed to check whether Cambridge Analytica deleted personal data of users and allowed them to self-certify that they had.

During an early exchange on Wednesday, Zuckerberg declined to give a commitment to change all users’ default privacy settings to collect the minimum amount of personal information, according to a report from BBC news.

Facebook’s Privacy Issue

The Congressional hearings mark another inquiry into Facebook’s disregard to privacy laws. The company’s data collection processes are contentious in other countries. As well, other mega-media corporations carryout invasive surveillance.

In February 2018, Belgium courts ruled for the second time that Facebook illegally tracked non-users by deploying technology such as cookies and social plug-ins.

“Facebook collects information about us all when we surf the Internet,” explains the Belgian privacy watchdog, referring to findings from its earlier investigation of Facebook’s use of tracking technologies. “To this end, Facebook uses various technologies, such as the famous ‘cookies’ or the ‘social plug-ins’ (for example, the ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ buttons) or the ‘pixels’ that are invisible to the naked eye.

Facing fines of up to €100 million, the company broke privacy laws and were sued by a Belgium privacy watchdog in 2015.

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Veteran newspaper and digital journalist, she is a thought leader in accountability journalism and ethics, and serves as a member of PBS’ Editorial Standards Review Committee.

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