Zuckerberg puts up stout defence of Facebook controls

Social network chief reveals he is among the millions of users exposed to data breach

Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg  repeatedly defended the company’s privacy practices at the congressional hearing. Photograph: Saul Loe/Getty Images

Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly defended the company’s privacy practices at the congressional hearing. Photograph: Saul Loe/Getty Images

 

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has revealed he was among the 87 million users whose data was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

At the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing the social network chief pushed back on Congress members’ suggestions that users do not have enough control of their data on Facebook after the privacy scandal.

“Every time that someone chooses to share something on Facebook . . . there is a control. Right there. Not buried in the settings somewhere but right there,” said the 33-year-old tycoon.

Mr Zuckerberg faced questions and concerns from members of Congress about what it was doing to give users more flexibility to opt into sharing their personal data with Facebook or third parties.

“How can consumers have control over their data when Facebook does not have control over the data?” asked Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the committee, at the beginning of the hearing.

Mr Zuckerberg repeatedly defended the company’s privacy practices, saying users have control over their own data and decide what to share. But when asked if his data had been improperly used he replied: “Yes.” He provided no further details.

Once again wearing a dark suit instead of his usual gray T-shirt, the hearing was Mr Zuckerberg’s second in two days.

On Tuesday, he took questions for nearly five hours in a US Senate hearing without making any further promises to support new legislation or change how the social network does business.

Facebook has been consumed by turmoil for nearly a month, since it came to light that millions of users’ personal information was wrongly harvested from the social network by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that has counted US president Donald Trump’s election campaign among its clients. The latest estimate of affected users is up to 87 million. Patience with the social media giant had already worn thin among users, advertisers and investors after the company said last year that Russia used Facebook for years to try to sway US politics, an allegation Moscow denies.

Facebook shares added value after earlier falls on Wednesday, posting their biggest daily gain in nearly two years on Tuesday as Mr Zuckerberg managed to deter any specific discussion about new regulations that might hamper Facebook’s ability to sell adverts tailored to users’ profiles. “It is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation” of internet firms, said Mr Zuckerberg on Wednesday.

But he again steered away from any specifics; some politicians grew frustrated at their limit of four minutes each to press him. And they chastised the billionaire at times for offering rehearsed platitudes about valuing user privacy. “I can’t let you filibuster right now,” said Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn at one point. She cut Mr Zuckerberg off on several occasions.