Sen. Bill Nelson got five minutes in Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the social network's recent privacy scandal.
Nelson and Zuckerberg talked about Facebook's Terms of Service, its business model — and how Cambridge Analytica got its hands on the personal data of 87 million Facebook users.
Check out a video of the interview.
And read the transcript here:
NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Yesterday when we talked, I gave the relatively harmless example that I'm communicating with my friends on Facebook and indicate that I love a certain kind of chocolate. And all of a sudden I start receiving advertisements for chocolate. What if I don't want to receive those commercial advertisements?
So your chief operating officer, Ms. Sandberg, suggested on the NBC "Today Show" that Facebook users who do not want their personal information used for advertising might have to pay for that protection. Pay for it.
Are you actually considering having Facebook users pay for you not to use the information?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, people have a control over how their information is used in ads in the product today. So if you want to have an experience where your ads aren't — aren't targeted using all the information that we have available, you can turn off third-party information.
What we found is that even though some people don't like ads, people really don't like ads that aren't relevant. And while there is some discomfort for sure with using information in making ads more relevant, the overwhelming feedback that we get from our community is that people would rather have us show relevant content there than not.
So we offer this control that — that you're referencing. Some people use it. It's not the majority of people on Facebook. And — and I think that that's — that's a good level of control to offer.
I think what Sheryl was saying was that, in order to not run ads at all, we would still need some sort of business model.
NELSON: And that is your business model. So I take it that — and I used the harmless example of chocolate. But if it got into more personal thing, communicating with friends, and I want to cut it off, I'm going to have to pay you in order not to send me, using my personal information, something that I don't want. That in essence is what I understood Ms. Sandberg to say. Is that correct?
ZUCKERBERG: Yes, Senator.
Although to be clear, we don't offer an option today for people to pay to not show ads. We think offering an ad-supported service is the most aligned with our mission of trying to help connect everyone in the world, because we want to offer a free service that everyone can afford.
ZUCKERBERG: That's the only way that we can reach billions of people.
NELSON: But — so, therefore, you consider my personally identifiable data the company's data, not my data. Is that it?
ZUCKERBERG: No, Senator. Actually, at — the first line of our Terms of Service say that you control and own the information and content that you put on Facebook.
NELSON: Well, the recent scandal is obviously frustrating, not only because it affected 87 million, but because it seems to be part of a pattern of lax data practices by the company, going back years.
So, back in 2011, it was a settlement with the FTC. And, now, we discover yet another incidence where the data was failed to be protected. When you discovered that Cambridge Analytica — that had fraudulently obtained all of this information, why didn't you inform those 87 million?
ZUCKERBERG: When we learned in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had bought data from an app developer on Facebook that people had shared it with, we did take action.
We took down the app, and we demanded that both the app developer and Cambridge Analytica delete and stop using any data that they had. They told us that they did this. In retrospect, it was clearly a mistake to believe them…
ZUCKERBERG: … and we should have followed up and done a full audit then. And that is not a mistake that we will make.
NELSON: Yes, you did that, and you apologized for it. But you didn't notify them. And do you think that you have an ethical obligation to notify 87 million Facebook users?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, when we heard back from Cambridge Analytica that they had told us that they weren't using the data and had deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake.
We shouldn't have taken their word for it, and we've updated our policies and how we're going to operate the company to make sure that we don't make that mistake again.
NELSON: Did anybody notify the FTC?
ZUCKERBERG: No, Senator, for the same reason — that we'd considered it a closed — a closed case.