Harris Presses Zuckerberg on Accountability, Transparency Failures

Press Release

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HD Video of Harris’ Questioning

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on his company’s decision not to notify 87 million Facebook users in December 2015 that their data had been stolen and used by a political firm. The public became aware of the stolen data after a New York Times report on March 17, 2018. Facebook began notifying affected users yesterday.

Harris began her remarks by highlighting the questions that Zuckerberg had failed to answer over the course of his testimony.

“I’m concerned about how much Facebook values trust and transparency,” said Harris. “If we agree that a critical component of a relationship of trust and transparency is we speak truth and we get to the truth. During the course of this hearing, these last four hours, you’ve been asked several critical questions for which you don’t have answers. And those questions have included whether Facebook can track users’ browsing activity even after the user has logged off of Facebook, whether Facebook can track your activity across devices even when you aren’t logged into Facebook, who is Facebook’s biggest competition, whether Facebook may store up to 96 categories of users’ information, whether you knew whether Kogan’s terms of service and whether you knew that Kogan could sell or transfer data.”

Harris continued by asking Zuckerberg about the decision Facebook made in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, to not inform users their data had been misused, “I’m also concerned that when you personally became aware of this, did you or senior leadership do an inquiry to find out who at Facebook had this information and did they not have a discussion about whether or not the users should be informed back in December of 2015?”

“Senator in retrospect, I think we clearly view it as a mistake that we did not inform people. And we did that based on false information that we thought that the case was closed and the data had been deleted,” Zuckerberg responded.

Harris again pressed Zuckerberg on whether there was a conscious decision not to inform users. Zuckerberg confirmed, “That’s my understanding, yes. But in retrospect, I think that was a mistake, and knowing what we know now, we should have handled a lot of things here differently.”

At the hearing, Harris also pressed Zuckerberg on the advertising revenue Facebook has received from publishing foreign propaganda. Last November, Harris similarly questioned executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google on the advertising revenue their companies earned from Russian propaganda in the 2016 presidential election.

Full transcript of Harris’ questioning below:

HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you for being here. I’ve been here on and off for the last four hours that you’ve been testifying and I have to tell you, I’m concerned about how much Facebook values trust and transparency, if we agree that a critical component of a relationship of trust and transparency is we speak truth and we get to the truth. During the course of this hearing, these last four hours, you’ve been asked several critical questions for which you don’t have answers. And those questions have included whether Facebook can track users’ browsing activity even after the user has logged off of Facebook, whether Facebook can track your activity across devices even when you aren’t logged into Facebook, who is Facebook’s biggest competition, whether Facebook may store up to 96 categories of users’ information, whether you knew whether Kogan’s terms of service and whether you knew that Kogan could sell or transfer data. And then another case in point specifically as it relates to Cambridge Analytica, is – and a concern of mine – is that you, meaning Facebook and I’m going to assume you personally as CEO, became aware in December of 2015 that Dr. Kogan and Cambridge Analytica misappropriated data from 87 million Facebook users. That’s 27 months ago that you became as Facebook, and perhaps you personally, became aware. However, a decision was made not to notify the users. So my question is, did anyone at Facebook have a conversation at the time that you became aware of this breach? And have a conversation wherein the decision was made not to contact the users?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I don’t know if there were any conversations at Facebook overall because I wasn’t in a lot of them. But –

HARRIS: On that subject.

ZUCKERBERG: Yeah. I mean, I am not sure what other people discussed. At the time in 2015 we heard the report that this developer Alexander Kogan had sold data to Cambridge Analytica. That’s in violation of our terms.

HARRIS: Correct. And were you a part of the decision – were you part of a discussion that resulted in a decision not to inform your users?

ZUCKERBERG: I don’t remember a conversation like that. But the reason why –

HARRIS: Are you aware of anyone in leadership at Facebook who was in a conversation where a decision was made not to inform your users? Or do you believe no such conversation ever took place?

ZUCKERBERG: I’m not sure whether there was a conversation about that but I can tell you the thought process at the time of the company, which was that in 2015 when we heard about this, we banned the developer and we demanded that they delete all of the data and stop using it, and the same with Cambridge Analytica.

HARRIS: And I appreciate your testimony in that regard, but I’m talking about notification of the users. And this relates to the issue of transparency and the relationship of trust. Informing the user about what you know in terms of how their personal information has been misused. And I’m also concerned that when you personally became aware of this, did you or senior leadership do an inquiry to find out who at Facebook had this information and did they not have a discussion about whether or not the users should be informed back in December of 2015?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator in retrospect, I think we clearly view it as a mistake that we did not inform people. And we did that based on false information that we thought that the case was closed and the data had been deleted.

HARRIS: So there was a decision made on that basis not to inform the users, is that correct?

ZUCKERBERG: That’s my understanding, yes. But in retrospect, I think that was a mistake, and knowing what we know now, we should have handled a lot of things here differently.

HARRIS: And I appreciate that point. Do you know when that conversation, when that decision was made not to inform the users?

ZUCKERBERG: I don’t.

HARRIS: Okay. Last November, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing on social media influence. I was a part of that hearing. I submitted 50 written questions to Facebook and other companies and the responses that we received were unfortunately evasive and some were frankly nonresponsive. So I am going to ask the question again here. How much revenue did Facebook earn from the user engagement that resulted from foreign propaganda?

ZUCKERBERG: Well, Senator what we do know is that the IRA, the Internet Research Agency, the Russian firm, ran about $100,000 worth of ads. I can’t say that we have identified all of the foreign actors who are involved here. So I can’t say that it is all of the money but that is what we have identified.

HARRIS: Okay, my time is up, I will submit more questions for the record. Thank you.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. White collar crime screwing over the citizenry= slap on the wrist

    White collar crime screwing over rich people= criminal sentencing

    Eg. Martin Skreli, Bernie Madoff, Enron, etc. So as long as Zuck didn’t screw over investors, he’ll walk away free and maybe exploit more natives like he tried in Hawaii.

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