Mark Zuckerberg answered a lot of questions over the past two days. But there are some he didn’t.
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Mark Zuckerberg’s apology tour reached a crescendo this week when he went to Washington to testify before two congressional panels. The first, on Tuesday, was with the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees. The following day, Zuckerberg faced the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
His goal: to reassure legislators, investors and users of the world’s largest social network that Facebook’s CEO had a handle on issues related to data privacy, fake news and foreign election tampering. The tour came after a scandal last month involving Cambridge Analytica, a digital consultancy that improperly used data from 87 million user accounts without permission to help its clients sway public sentiment — including reportedly working on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election.
The scandal raised questions about Facebook’s handling of personal information for its 2.2 billion users — and if the social network can be trusted to protect all that data. The morality of Facebook’s business model even came into question: it’s an ad-supported site, which means it makes its money by targeting ads based on what it knows about its users.
Congress was eager to get the 33-year-old billionaire in the hot seat, for the chance to interrogate Zuckerberg on everything from data privacy to election integrity, and to get his take on whether it was time for the tech company to abide by new regulations.
Over almost 10 hours of combined hearings, Zuckerberg endured a skewering. He was asked — and declined to answer — what hotel he stayed in. The question, by Sen. Dick Durbin, was meant to drive home the point of individual privacy. He admitted he was among the up to 87 million people who had their data exploited by Cambridge Analytica. And over and over again, he apologized for Facebook’s transgressions, promising the company would take a “broader view of its responsibilities.”
Zuckerberg, trading in his trademark T-shirts and jeans for a suit and tie, also took the blame for all the negativity surrounding Facebook. His oft-repeated refrain: “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
He answered a lot of questions, but were they enough to give people the explanations they deserve? Days before the hearings, we posed six questions for Zuckerberg, hoping he’d answer them during the grilling from Congress.
Let’s revisit them and see what he actually answered.
1. Why should Facebook users keep trusting and believing you when it comes to privacy?
Part of Facebook’s “breach of trust,” as Zuckerberg called it, was that the company knew about Cambridge Analytica’s violations three years ago, but it didn’t disclose them to the public until The New York Times and The Guardian were set to run stories. So the question of Facebook’s ability to be forthright about data misuse is reasonable.
On Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, asked Zuckerberg if he’d be willing to support legislation that would require him to notify users of a breach within 72 hours. Usually, when Zuckerberg’s asked to support legislation, he’d dodged the question by saying “The details matter,” and offered to follow up later. But in this case, Zuckerberg answered, “Senator, that makes sense to me.” (Then, he offered to follow up later.)
But when it comes to privacy, Zuckerberg’s policies might not be enough. While he was testifying on Tuesday, a block away at the Capitol Building, protesters shouted, “Zuckerberg, you’re absurd!” and “The internet is getting dark, and we owe it