Zuckerberg's Testimony To Congress Won't Make A Difference

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After ten hours of testimony to representatives of the US Congress, and having his speaking notes "leaked", Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can get back to business. But the last two days have proven one thing - the US government (and I suggest all governments) are clueless about what to do about a virtual country that has a population of about 2.2 billion people that is "governed" by a young man who has shown himself to be clueless about how to deal with the significant privacy issues his college-project-gone-wild has created.

There have been some interesting moments over the last two days, like Zuckerberg's vehement denial that his apps listen in to our conversations over smartphone microphones, and an admission that his own data was caught up in the Cambridge Analytica PII vacuum cleaner. But one thing has really stood out to me.

I don't think there is a single person on the planet that really understands Facebook. Zuckerberg might understand a large part of its technical underpinnings but he revealed himself to be utterly clueless about how people use it.

The Congress talked about regulation but have no idea how to regulate something like Facebook. Hint: you don't regulate Facebook - you create rules and laws all companies handling PII (personal identifiable information) have to comply with.

Facebook has already started to make changes to some of its practices in order to tighten up access to data. But most of that is like handing people umbrellas two hours after the tsunami has hit given he has admitted that pretty much every Facebook user's data has been scraped by unauthorised third parties already.

And I suspect the motivation for those changes has more to do with a falling share price, calls for Zuckerberg to step aside and the #deletefacebook movement.

Zuckerberg's appearance at the Congress was purely a show trial and an opportunity for self aggrandisement by members of Congress. Zuckerberg was made to feel nervous and publicly chastised (even ridiculed when the picture of him perched on a "booster seat" made the social media rounds) and members of congress got their 15 minutes on TV.

Ultimately, it will make no difference. Facebook will keep doing whatever it feels it can to placate users without compromising revenues too much, and the Congress will talk about how terrible things are without actually doing anything.

I suspect that it's the ACCC's investigation into the 300,000 Australians who had their data accessed through the Cambridge Analytica that will make more difference.


Comments

    Ultimately, it will make no difference. Facebook will keep doing whatever it feels it can to placate users without compromising revenues too much, and the Congress will talk about how terrible things are without actually doing anything.I suspect that it's the ACCC's investigation into the 300,000 Australians who had their data accessed through the Cambridge Analytica that will make more difference.

    And people will keep using Facebook. It's really simple: Nothing on Facebook is private. The information you put online is public, and is available to everybody. If you want privacy, don't put your information online.

    Anybody who was surprised by these "revelations" obviously didn't know the first thing about Facebook. This isn't a failing in regulation, nor is it a failing in Facebook's security. It is a failing in user education.

    People need to know this: You control what you put online. You do not control what happens to it once it's there.

    In 1999, the Chairman of Sun Microsystems summed up Internet privacy, in a statement that is as true today as it was almost two decades ago:

    You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.

    Last edited 12/04/18 10:02 am

      You're completely dismissing the issue at hand.
      There is definitely a failing on Facebook's part here in that it wilfully obfuscates what information it gathers, how it goes about that, and how it uses it. A small part of this may be alluded to in the legal terms and conditions of use of the site and the apps, but unless you can speak legalese and take the time to understand the possible legal implications as they pertain to your information, you'd never know exactly what it collects and what it does with that.
      That's the issue; people don't know what they're actually signing up for because Facebook is not clear and transparent about what it collects, how it does it, and ultimately how that information is used. The clear breach here is between the company's practices, how it communicates and educates the user about them, and the user's entirely reasonable expectations when it comes to the use of personal information and issues of privacy.

      Moreover, there is also a clear failing in the government's misunderstanding and inability to adapt laws that aim to curtail the misuse of citizen's information. They're elected and given power to serve and protect the populace but they've failed to foresee and the potential danger of allowing companies such as Facebook unfettered access to people's information.

      Yes, there's is definitely an issue of lack of education on the user's part, but you can't just dismiss the company's and government's responsibility to inform the individual with "you have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." because that fixes nothing. That's what this whole exercise is about.

    Internet privacy should be no different to non-electronic privacy - if anything it should be better because of the ability to encrypt data and make it unreadable to anyone without a key.

    If I send an important email I do not expect any third party be able to read the contents. Using a cloud-based service such as gmail that doesn't have encryption isn't an invitation to anyone to hack into my emails. Equally, if I store my data on a cloud service such as Dropbox.

    Facebook's business model is based on very loose definitions of what the company can do with your data in exchange for free use of their service. Herein lies the problem. The 'loose' definitions have been deliberately made harder to understand, and FB has got away with it up until now (as have lots of other services).

    There needs to be regulation around what information can be asked of a user, what can be done with it, and how the user can be given a detailed log of how it has been used. Regulations must also provide for remedies for the user when data has been used without express permission or has been passed on to 3rd parties without permission.

    Is anyone else laughing at the irony of the US congress getting annoyed at Facebook doing all this tracking.

    Yet just recently the very same US congress voted to continue the NSA's contraversial and unconstitutional data gathering program.

    Seems like double standards are in full effect here.

    Facebook “donates” far too much money to these politicians for them to turn on him.

    Buying politicians is insurance for just this kind of thing.

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