Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Is Back On Capitol Hill For A 2nd Day

Apr 11, 2018
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is undergoing a second day of questioning on Capitol Hill today. He started his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about an hour ago, and this hearing is supposed to last most of the day. Zuckerberg must be getting used to this by now. Yesterday, he answered questions for five hours in front of senators. Joining us now is NPR's Alina Selyukh. She's been covering the Facebook hearings.

Hi, Alina.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hi.

KING: All right, you've been watching today. How is it going so far?

SELYUKH: So far, we're seeing a lot of the same themes that played out yesterday. Mark Zuckerberg is taking responsibility, says he wants to do better, doing a lot of apologizing, specifically for the sharing of data that happened when Cambridge Analytica, the British political data firm, got a hold of 87 - up to 87 million people's information. Here's how he opened this morning.

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MARK ZUCKERBERG: We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I'm sorry.

SELYUKH: And if it continues the same way the hearing went yesterday, we'll hear a lot about more privacy protections, a conversation about what regulation might look like. But I have to say, the hearing in general is a lot tougher than yesterday. Questions are a lot more specific and focused. Greg Walden, who is the chairman of this House committee - he's a Republican from Oregon - opened with remarks saying that Facebook has grown, but he wasn't sure that it has matured enough and had this exchange with Mark Zuckerberg.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG WALDEN: Did it ever cross your mind that you should be communicating more clearly with users about how Facebook is monetizing their data? I understand that Facebook does not sell user data, per se, in the traditional sense, but it's also just as true that Facebook's user data is probably the most valuable thing about Facebook. In fact, it may be the only truly valuable thing about Facebook. Why wasn't explaining what Facebook does with users' data a higher priority for you as a co-founder and now as CEO?

ZUCKERBERG: Mr. Chairman, you're right that we don't sell any data. And I would say that we do try to explain what we do as time goes on. It's a broad system.

SELYUKH: In general, lawmakers today are really cutting off Zuckerberg. They're not letting him talk for a long time. They're really pressing him on what exactly is Facebook's business model, pushing him to be a lot more explicit in Facebook to come up with a more pedestrian language for the terms of service.

KING: Well, it's interesting because a lot of people poked fun at senators yesterday for sounding a little bit out of the loop. A lot of them sounded like they didn't really maybe know so much about what Facebook was.

SELYUKH: And, you know, my take on that was actually that it sort of showcases in general how people think about Facebook. A lot of users have the same troubles understanding, what exactly is Facebook doing with the information we turn over?

KING: Did today's tougher questioning - or has it so far - elicited any new insights?

SELYUKH: There have been a couple of things that Zuckerberg said that stood out to me. One of them came in an exchange with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. She's a Democrat from California.

(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: So this is the first time...

KING: Wow.

SELYUKH: ...We've learned that Zuckerberg's personal data was part of the data grab by Cambridge Analytica. And there was another exchange in which Zuckerberg was asked to confirm that Facebook does indeed track users, even when they log off. And he did finally say, yes, we do track users when they log off, both for security purposes and for advertising purposes.

KING: OK, so some new insights here today - what do we expect to come out of these hearings in the end?

SELYUKH: You know, both Democrats and Republicans at this hearing are really indicating interest in writing some new kind of privacy regulations. The political circumstances are a little complicated, but I think the fact that Zuckerberg now says regulations are inevitable really paves the way for kind of a pivotal change in the way that lawmakers address tech giants and think about regulations of privacy in the coming weeks.

KING: NPR's Alina Selyukh. Thank you so much, Alina.

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

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