Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should expect legislators to grill him about whether the social media network needs government regulation in the wake of its recent scandals on user data and privacy. If he is evasive, one legislator has warned, “Well, we can do it the easy way or the hard way.”
That was a statement from Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), who appeared Sunday on CBS’ Face The Nation in his capacity as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He will be among the senators talking to Zuckerberg about the recent revelations that data on its users has been shared without their knowledge.
Zuckerberg will testify this week on Capitol Hill about Facebook’s use of user data. He will appear before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees on Tuesday and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to hurt Facebook. I don’t want to regulate them half to death,” said Kennedy. “But we have a problem. Our promised digital utopia has minefields in it. Mr. Zuckerberg has not exhausted himself being forthcoming.”
Kennedy said he has “many, many questions,” but the biggest concern privacy issues “and what I called the propagandist issue are both too big for Facebook to fix, and that’s the frightening part.” When asked if that meant government regulation, Kennedy said, “It may be the case.”
The service agreement for Facebook is “written in Swahili,” Kennedy said. “Nobody understands it.”
He then listed a stream of potential questions on privacy issues: Is it fair for me to give up all of my personal data to Facebook and apparently everybody else in the Western Hemisphere in exchange for me being able to see what some of my high school buddies had for dinner Saturday night? Who owns my data? Do I own it or does Facebook own it? Should I have the right to opt-in as opposed to opt-out? Should I have the right to erase my data? Should I have the right to demand that Facebook get my permission before it sells the data?”
Kennedy referred to “that poison is being spread on social media, not just Facebook. How are we going to stop it? And by the way, while we’re talking about that — what’s poison? First Amendment concerns.”
He concluded by saying the problems ran deeper than the Cambridge Analytica issue, wherein that company bought Facebook data, sparking the corporate crisis.