April 10, 2018

Senator Hassan to Mark Zuckerberg: “Why should we think that Facebook on its own will ever truly make the changes that we need to protect Americans’ well-being and privacy?”

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Click here for a link to the full video of Senator Hassan’s questioning of Mr. Zuckerberg.

WASHINGTON – As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Senator Maggie Hassan today questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the joint Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees hearing titled, “Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data.”

Senator Hassan pressed Mr. Zuckerberg on Facebook’s business model, which as the Senator said, relies on two potentially problematic foundations: “maximizing the amount of time people spend on your products and collecting people’s data.”

Senator Hassan continued, “You’ve said in your testimony that Facebook’s mission is to bring the world closer together, and you’ve said that you will never prioritize advertisers over that mission – and I believe that you believe that. But at the end of the day, your business model does prioritize advertisers over the mission. Facebook is a for-profit company, and as a CEO you have a legal duty to do what’s best for your shareholders. So given all that, why should we think that Facebook on its own will ever truly be able to make the changes that we need it to make to protect Americans’ well-being and privacy?”

The Senator added, “we’ve heard you apologize numerous times and promise to change – but here we are again. I really firmly believe in free enterprise, but when private companies are unwilling or unable to do what’s necessary, public officials have historically, in every industry, stepped up to protect our constituents and consumers. You’ve supported targeted regulations such as the Honest Ads Act. That’s an important step for election integrity, and I’m proud to be a cosponsor of that bill. But we need to address other, broader issues as well. And today you’ve said you’d be open to some regulation, but this has been a pretty general conversation, so will you commit to working with Congress to develop ways of protecting constituent privacy and well-being, even if it means that that results in some laws that will require you to adjust your business model?”

Mr. Zuckerberg responded, “Senator, yes. We will commit to that. I think that that’s an important conversation to have. Our position is not that regulation is bad. I think the internet is so important in people’s lives, and it’s getting more important, the expectations on internet companies and technology companies overall are growing, and I think the real question is what is the right framework for this, not should there be one.”

Senator Hassan concluded by pointing out that the incentive structure needs to change, suggesting that significant financial penalties when large providers like Facebook are breached are necessary “because right now there is very little incentive, whether it is Facebook or Equifax, to actually be aggressive in enforcing customers privacy.”  

 

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