In some ways, Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg might be relieved. He prepared for harder questions than he got during his first testimony before U.S. lawmakers.
No senator asked him, for example, about whether he should resign from Facebook -- a question Zuckerberg would have answered by saying he has solved big problems before, according to a snapshot of his notes from the Associated Press. Or about the fact that malicious actors may have abused Facebook’s search feature to scrape data on a majority of its 2 billion users, which, he would have explained, the company has resolved so it doesn’t happen again in the future.
The executive had to clear up a few misconceptions about his product in exchanges with senators that came with a touch of irony, considering how misinformation is known to spread on his social network. No, Zuckerberg said, Facebook doesn’t sell data to advertisers or anyone else. (Instead, it has an ad-targeting system that allows advertisers to reach users based on their interests and activity without ever seeing their names.) Facebook also isn’t listening to people’s conversations via their phones’ microphones, or trying to silence conservative voices, he said.
But there were some hard-hitting questions. And in five hours of testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees, the 33-year-old ducked some, skirted around others, but answered most of them. Here are the top takeaways:
“Your user agreement sucks,” said Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana. The purpose of the agreement is to cover Facebook’s “rear end,” not to defend privacy rights, he said.
Kennedy recommended that Zuckerberg tell his lawyers to translate the policy’s language into understandable English.
“Most Americans have no idea what they are signing up for because Facebook’s terms of service are beyond comprehension,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said after the hearing.
The concerns hit at a widespread worry senators had that Facebook used the broad agreements to ride roughshod over the privacy of its users, without those individuals understanding what they had agreed to. Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, tried to frame the issue in terms that Zuckerberg could understand.
“Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” Durbin asked during the hearing.
Zuckerberg hesitated before saying no.
Durbin said that’s exactly what the privacy issue is all about -- what people are giving up in modern America.