Facebook Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress on April 11th

By Caroline Mathews, National News Writer

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is expected to testify before Congress on April 11th; this will be the first confirmed appearance before Congress following CNBC reports from last week that he was preparing to testify. Following both public outrage and caustic criticism from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress—in addition to members of the United Kingdom’s Parliament—over Facebook’s failure to protect the user privacy of about 50 million users.

Facebook has been facing public—and now official—scrutiny, primarily over unethical data collection methods following allegations that Cambridge Analytica, a U.K. political consulting firm hired by managers of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, harvested data on tens of millions of Facebook users in an attempt to influence the 2016 Presidential Election. Zuckerberg has announced plans for tightening, centralizing, and simplifying privacy settings on the social media platform. However, significant research argues that this privacy policy change, while still necessary, is too little and too late as most social media users leave their default privacy settings unmodified (perhaps in correlation with not fully understanding the extent to which private information is accessible to the public or the potential consequences of such information being open).

In a statement, Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Oregon) and ranking Democrat Frank Pallone of New Jersey said, “This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” and that they look forward to Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony. Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress will be, for what much of the public hopes, the beginning of conversation aiming to push Congress to adopt more rigorous and comprehensive privacy laws—specifically ones pertaining to user privacy online.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also taken an unprecedented step of announcing that it will, in fact, be investigating Facebook’s privacy policies and its third-party use of data. The developments have prompted a so-called “#deleteFacebook” movement and a significant loss of advertisers; it has also powered a 16 percent decline in the value of Facebook shares over the course of two weeks and a 3.8 percent fall to $153.93 in late March.

Facebook has been attempting to restore its public image and to once again instill users’ trust of their personal data: Zuckerberg has apologized for the “breach of trust,” and has taken out full-page advertisements in many U.S. and U.K. Sunday newspapers. He has also publicly said he welcomes more regulation aimed at protecting user information—although this seems to directly contradict a previous statement made in 2010 of privacy simply not being a “social-norm” anymore.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 10th print edition.

Contact Caroline at

caroline.mathews@student.shu.edu

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