Tech

Facebook says it's open to some privacy regulation. Here's where to start

Facebook says it's open to some privacy regulation. Here's where to start

Speaking to the gravity of the situation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg traveled down to Capitol Hill this week where he fielded pointed questions from lawmakers about data privacy and a range of other issues.

"Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about users?" asked Sen. After all, Facebook has no real incentive to look after the data of its users, since those data are so valuable to companies around the globe. FaceMash was a prank website that I launched in college, in my dorm room, before I started Facebook. The fallout from the scandal also precipitated Mark Zuckerberg's appearance before the US Congress this week.

Zuckerberg said he was getting to the bottom of what the UK-based firm did and will tell everyone who may have been affected. The country also had more than 1 million Facebook users whose data may have been accessed by Cambridge Analytica.

A day earlier, Zuckerberg said he took personal responsibility for the improper use of 87 million people's personal data by Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Its stock is down about seven percent this year and, ironically, shares hit an all-time high just before the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit, but they've been down 16 percent ever since.

In February, a Belgian court ruled that Facebook had violated European privacy law by tracking non-users because it had not obtained consent either to collect or store the data.

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One of the issues raised was about the alleged political bias of the platform, with conservative legislators asking about the removal of several popular conservative Facebook pages. "But there's more to do, and you can find more of the details of the other steps we're taking in the written statement I provided", he said. "Every time, there is a control right there - not buried in settings somewhere, but right there, when they're posting about who they want to share it with", he added. You didn't know about major court cases regarding your privacy policies against your company.

Facebook is implementing the GDPR standards for European users next month, and some of its rules will be extended to U.S. and other users later, he confirmed.

Facebook does limit some content that could be related to "terrorism" but, "We don't think of it as censorship". One of the things that also came up in the hearings, and I am a firm believer in this, is that big companies generally don't get hurt by regulations. "We build planes to help connect people, and I don't consider ourselves to be an aerospace company", he said.

But he acknowledged that "it's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well".

"Nothing has changed in my mind over the last two days", says Ari Waldman, director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at the New York Law School and author of "Privacy as Trust". It was my mistake, and I'm sorry.

"Congressman, I do not know off the top of my head but I can have our team get back to you afterwards", came the familiar response which has become a crutch for Mr Facebook whenever he's been asked a question which may elicit an uncomfortable truth. "We have to make sure people aren't using it to harm people or spread disinformation", Zuckerberg told the Senators.