Zuckerberg denies knowledge of Facebook shadow profiles

Mark Zuckerberg Regulation ‘inevitable for social media firms

It's hard to believe that Facebook was too "idealistic" to worry about privacy breaches; after all, Zuckerberg was almost expelled from Harvard for similar issues.

Although the 33-year-old had never testified at a congressional hearing before, he succeeded in deflecting questions like a Washington veteran. They have already heard from the whistleblower who brought the firm's data-gathering activity to light, Christopher Wylie.

While questions ranged from data privacy to prescription drug sales to employee diversity, most lines of inquiry highlighted the challenge of trying to grasp and confront Facebook's huge power in consumers' lives, in ways most of its users don't completely understand.

Facebook is facing another investigation over revelations that information from tens of millions of its users were accessed by data research firm Cambridge Analytica. He gave no further details. What Facebook is selling to political campaigns is the same thing Uber is selling to its drivers and customers and what YouTube is selling to advertisers who hope to reach an audience of children - namely, the right to bypass longstanding rules and regulations in order to act with impunity.

Zuckerberg, the man who founded Facebook just 14 years ago, was questioned by U.S. Senate and House of Representatives committees over two days this week.

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"I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here". In his opening remarks at US Congress, he said: "Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company. Facebook has that information and they can present that ad for that objective".

But when asked whether Facebook would commit to minimizing user data collection as much as possible, he said: "This is a complex issue that deserves more than a one-word answer". Zuckerberg came prepared with a data point about how most people use eight different apps to keep in touch with friends and family - a number that may include email and text messaging, which aren't direct competitors of Facebook. He refrained from cracking jokes and flashed few smiles. Third parties will no longer be able to make quite such free use of the unfathomable quantities of data that Facebook accumulates. He did not name specific companies. "I think the company was appreciative that I was raising awareness about it, but they ultimately didn't make enough changes to close the vulnerabilities, which would have prevented Cambridge Analytica from happening". In spite of this, data is not transparently accounted for on balance sheets.

What remained as the dust settled on Wednesday was an inability to translate bipartisan concern into regulation due to the complexity of regulating technology issues and the powerful lobbying forces assembled against any effort to do so.

That billions of individuals have made the conscious choice to trade some measure of privacy for convenience - and in so doing empowered a wide array of marketers, political and otherwise, to profile and sell to them - isn't itself a scandal.

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