U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, is one of several lawmakers who questioned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for several hours today. The joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees involved Facebook’s influence in the 2016 election and whether to regulate the industry – something Zuckerberg strongly opposes.
Last year, it was learned that Russians used the social media platform to create political friction deep in the 2016 election cycle by using Facebook and pages to distribute false information. Zuckerberg was also questioned why Facebook didn’t tell 87 million users in 2015 that their information was sold to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The British firm reportedly profiled 2016 voters and is linked to Republican President Donald Trump’s campaign – potentially influencing the outcome of the 2016 election.
“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,” Zuckerberg said. “In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it.”
Facebook did not inform the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the improper data sharing. The FTC is also reportedly investigating Facebook about how the company’s user privacy has been handled.
Blunt questioned Zuckerberg about recent reports that the Facebook app, while being used on Android phones, collects extraordinary amounts of information about users’ cell phone usage without their permission.
“Am I able to say it’s okay for you (Facebook) to track what I’m saying on Facebook but I don’t want you to track what I’m texting to somebody else off Facebook on an Android,” asks Blunt.
“Yes, Senator. In general, Facebook is not collecting data from other apps that you use,” Zuckerberg says. “Unless you specifically opt in that you want to share the texting app information, Facebook wouldn’t see that.”
“Has it always been that way,” Blunt asks.
“Senator, my understanding is that that is how the mobile operating systems are architected,” Zuckerberg responds.
The 33-year-old Zuckerberg, uncharacteristically wearing a suit and tie, took responsibility for Facebook’s missteps and says the company is working to prevent future malfeasance.
He will also testify Wednesday before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, R, has also launched an investigation into Facebook’s sharing and tracking of user information.