Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has faced the US Senate as part of a two-day hearing into the Cambridge Analytica breach.
The hearing touched on a litany of issues faced by the social media platform, most notably how Facebook is planning on securing user data.
As part of a new strategy outlined by Zuckerberg, one measurement could be to set up paid adblocking technology on the site.
The move would see users paying for their privacy, with advertisers still able to mine data from – and serve targeted advertising to – those who weren’t paying.
Speaking to Senator Nelson during the hearing, Zuckerberg said Facebook would need to rework its business model as part of the overhaul.
Nelson asked Zuckerberg, “Are you actually considering having Facebook users pay for you to not use [personal] information?”
“In order to not run ads at all we would need some kind of business model,” Zuckerberg replied.
“I am going to have to pay you in order to not to send me, using my personal information, something that I don’t want?” Nelson asked.
“You consider my personally identifiable data the company’s data and not my data, is that it?”
While Zuckerberg replied with a “no”, he also added, “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”
Meaning, there will always be a version of the platform where advertisers can harvest users’ data to serve targeted ads.
Nelson then added, “I am going to cut to the chase, if you and other social media companies do not get your act together none of us going to have any privacy anymore.”
The conversation was only one of several heated exchanges throughout the hearing.
Another topic Zuckerberg focused his attention on was stopping interference in elections going forward.
“We’ve deployed new AI tools that do a better job of identifying fake accounts that may be trying to interfere in elections or spread misinformation,” he said.
“There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems … so this is an arms race.
“They’re going to keep on getting better at this and we need to invest in keeping on getting better at this too.”
Throughout the hearing, Zuckerberg remained overly apologetic about the Cambridge Analytica hack, and promised Facebook users stronger security against data breaches.
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he said.
“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
Meanwhile, the group at the centre of the hearing, Cambridge Analytica, has flat-out denied using Facebook users’ data at all.
We did not hack Facebook or break any laws – SCL Elections licensed data from a research company called GSR which obtained the data via a tool provided by Facebook, a common practice at the time.
— Cambridge Analytica (@CamAnalytica) April 10, 2018
Cambridge Analytica did no work on the Brexit referendum in Britain. We pitched our services to leave and remain groups but did no work for them.
— Cambridge Analytica (@CamAnalytica) April 10, 2018
B&T will continue to report on Zuckerberg’s testimony as the hearing progresses.
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