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Lawmakers Ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Tougher Questions As Testimony Continues

Apr 11, 2018
Originally published on April 11, 2018 7:06 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg survived his second day of questioning on Capitol Hill - yesterday two Senate committees, today the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Joining us now to talk about today's events is Alina Selyukh. Hey there, Alina.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hi.

CORNISH: So was it more of the same in terms of the style of questioning?

SELYUKH: It was a lot less fanfare but a lot more knowledgeable, concise focused questions, a more hostile environment, I would say, for Zuckerberg. Lawmakers cut him off a lot. Chairman Greg Walden, Oregon Republican, opened by nodding to Facebook's old motto.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG WALDEN: While Facebook has certainly grown, I worry it may not have matured. I think it's time to ask whether Facebook may have moved too fast and broken too many things.

SELYUKH: Several Democrats pressed Zuckerberg to commit to collecting as little information as possible, to even change Facebook's business model to protect user privacy. He went back to his talking points, saying that people already decide what groups to share info with. They can add their ad preferences. Republicans pressed him on whether Facebook suppresses conservative views. A few lawmakers argued that Facebook doesn't have a true competitor - overall a much more informative hearing.

CORNISH: But did tougher questions elicit better answers or any new insights?

SELYUKH: Yes. A number of concessions came out of Zuckerberg, especially on how much Facebook knows about people. He was forced to acknowledge that Facebook does track Facebook users when they are not locked in, also said that until recently, Facebook was buying information on consumers from data brokers, which might include information on offline activities.

And he argues people essentially choose to be tracked like this because they generally prefer targeted ads over irrelevant ads, and they keep the ad settings and opt in by signing into Facebook in the first place. But then there were big questions about what Facebook knows about people who did not sign up for Facebook in the first place. Listen to this exchange between Democrat Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico and Zuckerberg.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN RAY LUJAN: Facebook has detailed profiles on people who have never signed up for Facebook - yes or no?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, in general, we collect data from people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes.

SELYUKH: Zuckerberg says non-Facebook users are tracked to make sure they're, for example, not hackers or other malicious actors.

CORNISH: I want to go back to the controversy that led to these hearings that the political firm Cambridge Analytica got data on millions of Facebook users without their consent - any news on that front?

SELYUKH: Well, we learned that even Zuckerberg could not escape the data grab. This came after questioning by Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANNA ESHOO: Was your data included in the data sold to the malicious third parties - your personal data?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes.

SELYUKH: Zuckerberg kept repeating that Facebook is doing a massive audit of tens of thousands of apps connected to Facebook. He gave no timeline. And he said he does imagine Facebook might find some other apps like Cambridge Analytica that misused user data.

CORNISH: Any indications what lawmakers might do next?

SELYUKH: I mean, it's Congress. There was a lot of energy behind some kind of regulation. It wasn't clear which direction they were heading specifically. Zuckerberg continued walking that line of sounding supportive of regulation in general. He said it was inevitable that the industry was going to be regulated eventually, but he didn't commit to anything specific. Chairman Walden did end the hearing by asking Zuckerberg to recommend other technology CEOs who should come and testify.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Alina Selyukh. Thank you.

SELYUKH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.