Yesterday Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress for the first time. In the five-hour marathon session, the ongoing Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal was of course the main subject. The data mining firm misused information of as many as 87 million users. However, beside that, the session also discussed Facebook’s role and responsibility in the world as a news source, and a massively influential tool for democracy and communication.
In the course of this, Zuckerberg was asked a wide range of questions from whether Facebook is a monopoly, to if the company would ever consider an ad-free paid version. Zuckerberg and the sophisticated executive and crisis PR team did not expect this hearing to be a cake walk. They surely did weeks of preparation, and that was all locked in a thick binder of notes, which Zuckerberg was carrying with him. This was basically his notes to help him answer questions, stay on his talking points, and come up with quick and relatively innocuous responses to hot-button issues.
Somehow, an AP Photographer got a shot of the very binder, revealing two pages of his notes. And the view of his notes is ineffably uncomfortable, The Verge reports.
Some interesting standouts from his notes was a little note next to the underlined word “Cambridge Analytica”, which reads that no credit card or social security numbers were compromised. Just few point below that Zuckerberg also has a section on defending Facebook by reiterating the good it does for the world. There is also a section titled “Accountability”, which says that Zuck is to say that he is to blame as the leader of Facebook, and that no one has been fired over the scandal.
Then there is a very pertinent point on Facebook’s business model, where the CEO has written about the social network needing to be free to be accessible to everyone, and that advertising is the only way to offer that service to the largest number of people. During the session, Zuckerberg nervously did apologize for a lot of things, including fake news, and interference in elections. He also acknowledges that the company did not do enough to prevent the platform from being used to harm others.
“Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company. For most of our existence, we focused on all of the good that connecting people can do. But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools for being used as harm as well,” he said. Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook didn’t take a broad enough view of their responsibility in the entire working.
Watch: 5 ways WhatsApp became more than just a messenger
Below is the full transcript of his notes:
– Breach of trust; sorry we let it happen; took steps in 2014 to stop it happening again.
– Quiz app designed by Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan.
– People who used app gave Kogan FB information like public profile, page likes, friend list + birthday; same for friends’ whose settings allowed sharing; NO credit card/SSN info.
– Kogan sold to CA in violation of our terms; when we found out, told them to delete data.
– Confirmed they had — now seems untrue. Should have done more to audit + tell people.
– Didn’t think enough about abuse; rethinking every part of our relationship with people.
– Important issue but no credit card information or SSN shared.
– People gave Kogan access to Facebook information like their public profile, page likes, friend list, birthday; same for friends’ whose settings allowed sharing.
– 2014 changes mean it couldn’t happen now; restricted apps’ access to data even further.
Reverse lookup (scraping)
– Found out about abuse two weeks ago, shut it down.
– Useful to find someone by phone number/email; if people have the same name.
– Malicious actors linked public info (name, profile photo, gender, user ID) to phone numbers they already had; shut it down. Need to do more to prevent abuse.
– Fire people for CA?: It’s about how we designed the platform. That was my responsibility. Not going to throw people under the bus.
– Do you ever fire anyone?: Yes; hold people accountable all the time; not going to go into specifics.
– Resign?: Founded Facebook. My decisions. I made mistakes. Big challenge, but we’ve solved problems before, going to solve this one. Already taking action.
– No accountability for MZ?: Accountable to you, to employees, to people who use FB.
– I use FB every day, so does my family, invest a lot in security.
– Made mistakes, working hard to fix them.
– Giving people more controls, just yesterday stated showing people their app controls.
Business model (ads)
– Want FB to be a service that everyone can use, has to be free, can only do that with ads.
– Key for me is mission — helping people connect. Business model supports that mission.
– Let’s be clear: Facebook doesn’t sell data. You own your information. We give you controls.
– People know […] need ads; tell us if they have to see ads, want them to be relevant.
– Facebook […] not time spent; time spent fell 5% Q4; pivot to MSI.
– […]ssesm[..] to communicate with kids; MK gives parents control.
– […] like N[…] have commercial ads. We have no plans to do so.
– [If attacked: Respectfully, I reject that. Not who we are.]
– Billions people globally use FB every day to connect to the people that matter.
– Families reconnected, people met and gotten married, movements organized, tens of millions of SMBs now have better tools to grow and create jobs.
– More work to do, but can’t lose sight of all the ways people are using FB for good.
Tim Cook on biz model
– Bezos: “Companies that work hard to charge you more and companies that work hard to charge you less.”
– At FB, we try hard to charge you less. In fact, we’re free.
– [On data, we’re similar. When you install an app on your iPhone, you give it access to some information, just like when you login with FB.
– Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people.
– Important you hold everyone to the same standard.]
– It’s very disturbing; and sadly we do see bad things on Facebook.
– Should have no place on our service; community standards prohibit hate, bullying, terror.
– Working to be more proactive; AI, hiring more people e.g. terror, e.g. suicide.
– Will never be perfect; but making huge investments.
Election integrity (Russia)
– Too slow, making progress. France, Germany, Alabama.
– Midterms are important, but not just in the US — Brazil, Mexico, Hungary.
– Just announced committee of academics to commission independent research on social media on democracy.
– Silicon valley has a problem, and Facebook is part of the problem.
– Personally care about making progress; long way to go [3% African American, 5% Hispanics].
– Consumer choice: consumers have lots of choice over how they spend their time
– Small part of ad market: advertisers have choices too — $650 billion market, we have 6%.
– Break up FB?: US tech companies key asset for America, break up strengthens Chinese companies.
GDPR (Don’t say we already do what GDPR requires)
– People deserve good privacy tools and controls wherever they live.
– We build everything to be transparent and give people control. GDPR does a few things:
– Provides control over data use — what we’ve done for a few years.
– Requires consent — done a little bit, now doing more in Europe and around the world.
– Get special consent for sensitive things e.g. facial recognition.
– Support privacy legislation that is practical, puts people in control and allows for innovation.