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.
— Kmarko (@Kmarkobarstool) April 10, 2018
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.