Facebook Data Privacy Legal Insights

April 17, 2018

Data Privacy issues are predominating the news and Capitol Hill with Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg’s recent congressional testimony revealing a number of shocking facets of data-harvesting and data use.  This article will highlight some of the portions of Zuckerberg’s testimony that occurred on April 10 and 11, 2018.

Zuckerberg’s statements from April 10 and 11, 2018 before the Committee of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Committee on House Energy and Commerce can respectively be found at: 2018 WL 1726366 and 2018 WL 1740473.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing on Facebook’s Use and Protection of User Data can be found at: 2018 WL 1757479; and, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee Joint Hearing on Facebook can be found at: 2018 WL 1740746

The testimony focused largely on privacy settings and the onus on users to protect their own privacy.  In the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee Joint Hearing, the following exchange took place:

GRASSLEY : […]Facebook collects massive amounts of data from consumers, including content, networks, contact lists, device information, location, and information from third parties, yet your data policy is only a few pages long and provides consumers with only a few examples of what is collected and how it might be used. The examples given emphasize benign uses, such as “connecting with friends,” but your policy does not give any indication  or more controversial issues of such data. My question: Why doesn’t Facebook disclose to its users all the ways that data might be used by Facebook and other third parties? And what is Facebook’s responsibility to inform users about that information?

ZUCKERBERG: Mr. Chairman, I believe it’s important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used. That’s why, every single time you go to share something on Facebook, whether it’s a photo in Facebook, or a message — in Messenger or What’s App, every single time, there’s a control right there about who you’re going to be sharing it with — whether it’s your friends or public or a specific group — and you can — you can change that and control that in line.

To your broader point about the privacy policy, this gets into an — an issue that I — I think we and others in the tech industry have found challenging, which is that long privacy policies are very confusing. And if you make it long and spell out all the detail, then you’re probably going to reduce the percent of people who read it and make it accessible to them.

So, one of the things that — that we’ve struggled with over time is to make something that is as simple as possible so people can understand it, as well as giving them controls in line in the product in the context of when they’re trying to actually use them, taking into account that we don’t expect that most people will want to go through and read a full legal document.

Zuckerberg was also asked about whether Facebook should be regulated, and in the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee Joint Hearing, the following exchange took place:

ZUCKERBERG: Well, Senator, my position is not that there should be no regulation.

GRAHAM: OK.

ZUCKERBERG: I think the internet is increasingly…

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: You embrace regulation?

ZUCKERBERG: I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.

GRAHAM: But — but you, as a company, welcome regulation?

ZUCKERBERG: I think, if it’s the right regulation, then yes.

GRAHAM: You think the Europeans had it right?

ZUCKERBERG: I think that they get things right.

GRAHAM: Have you ever submitted…

(LAUGHTER)

That’s true. So would you work with us in terms of what regulations you think are necessary in your industry?

ZUCKERBERG: Absolutely.

GRAHAM: OK. Would you submit to us some proposed regulations?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. And I’ll have my team follow up with you so, that way, we can have this discussion across the different categories where I think that this discussion needs to happen.

 

Tracking the development of Data Privacy bills as well as the news in light of what the regulations that Zuckerberg and other representatives from large companies think are the “right regulations” will be an interesting and worthwhile endeavor since it affects the current state of data privacy laws and consumer privacy rights.

Image source: REUTERS/Leah Millis

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