accc digital platforms inquiry
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of the principal Congress overnight for the first of two hearings regarding the company’s protection of users’ data. Though the inquisition has been kicked off by the data harvesting of Cambridge Analytica and its associated connections to the US 2016 presidential election, the hearing covered a number of topics related to the company at large.

Zuckerberg was met with hours of criticism and tough questions from lawmakers, many of which hinted at serious implications for the broader market. “This should be a wake-up call for the tech community,” said Senator John Thune.

Judging by his bewildered expression throughout, Zuckerberg may well have received that wake-up call. At the very least, his responses offer some interesting food for thought. 

The apology tour ramps up: “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

A statement that will raise huge questions about the relationship between tech and media: “I agree that we’re responsible for the content [posted on Facebook].”

The start of some very complicated discussions about legislation: “My position is not that there should be no regulation… [We welcome it] if it’s the right regulation.”

Does Facebook have a dangerous monopoly on its market? “It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me.”

Clarification on Cambridge Analytica: “When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica that they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it. We’ve updated our policy to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”

Regarding the personality quiz apps you regret signing up for: “We’re investigating every single app that had access to a large amount of information in the past. And if we find that someone improperly used data, we’re going to ban them from Facebook and tell everyone affected.”

Do people really have an informed understanding of what they’re consenting to? “I don’t think that the average person likely reads that whole document [the user end agreement], but I think there are different ways to communicate that, and we have a responsibility to do so.”

Yes, Facebook’s involved in the Mueller investigation: “I want to be careful here because our work with the special counsel is confidential and I want to make sure that in an open session I’m not revealing something that is confidential … I actually am not aware of a subpoena. I believe there may be, but I know we’re working with them.”

What happened to “it’s free and always will be”? “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free … In general we believe the ad model is the right one for us, [but ad-free subscription services are] reasonable to think through.”