All eyes were glued on Washington this past week during the two days of hearings with 33-year-old, former boy-wonder Mark Zuckerberg Facebook's CEO. All of it, as you know, revolving around the Cambridge Analytica scandal where Facebook was a part of the illegal collection and sale of personal data on 87 million people.
If you’re a Facebook customer, it's safe to assume that you are one of those 87 million. Click here for a way to find out for sure.
Zuckerberg traded in his typical outfit of gray T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. He must've figured it would not be viewed as entertaining, cute, or gifted by Congress, so he showed up in a dark blue suit and light blue tie. Very grown-up.
Grown-up that is, until the camera panned to him sitting in a booster seat - I’m not making this up, a 4-inch cushion so that he would look better sitting at the table. (He's 5'7" if you're wondering).
So many questions left unanswered
Then the questioning began. He answered with dozens of “I don’t knows”, “We made mistakes”, and “We could have done betters...” Frankly, for the CEO of a company he founded and purports to run, he sure didn’t come across as someone with a firm grasp of the business.
And if his answer wasn’t, “I don’t know,” he often said that "His team" (read that as -- “The company’s lawyers”) would follow up to the question. What a cop-out!
You’ll love this: We know that Facebook collects tons of data on its 2.2 billion users but Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, could not answer exactly how much data they collect on people.
For the record, the answer is about 29,000 data categories that it collects from average people and provides willingly to advertisers. Facebook targets you based on income levels, a range of things that you have liked, groups you've joined, relationship status, age, and on and on and on.
How come you couldn't answer this question, Mark?
Zuckerberg also did not give answers to how long Facebook keeps user data after they delete their Facebook or Instagram accounts. Remember, Facebook owns Instagram too.
So here’s what DIDN’T happen. He was NOT put under oath. There was no announcement of any new initiatives and no explanation as to why everyone wasn't notified that their data was misused back in December 2015.
And THAT may be his undoing.
Back in 2011, the government charged and Facebook literally admitted that its privacy claims were unfair and deceptive and violated federal law. That was seven years ago! The Federal Trade Commission said that Facebook deceived its consumers by telling them their information on Facebook would be kept private, but instead, Facebook repeatedly allowed it to be shared and made public.
In short, they profited off their false promises, and profited off all of US!
So the FTC came away with an agreement REQUIRING Facebook to take all kinds of precautions, including "giving the consumer (you and me) clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers' consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings you established."
Flash ahead to 2015 and this Cambridge Analytica mess, and we know what happened, Facebook simply ignored the 2011 agreement.
Now, I can assure you that this is going to lead to big fines and probably much more. The bottom line is this: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook manipulated us, and we helped!
Click here to listen to my free podcast with details on how we were manipulated and what it means going forward.
And then there is Congress...
It is apparent that these legislators do not know much about the technology we use every day. And, for the most part, they do not understand social media. Out of the 535 members of Congress, there are only a handful of exemptions.
Just look at some of the questions they asked:
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham asked, "Is Twitter the same as what you do?"
Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz asked, "If I'm emailing within WhatsApp...does that inform your advertisers?" The problem with that question? WhatsApp is a chat platform. You can’t send an email in WhatsApp.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch asked, "How do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?"
Zuckerberg said, "Senator we run ads."
Senator Hatch said, "I see…… That's great."
Now here’s a hard-hitting question. Missouri Senator Roy Blunt: "My son is dedicated to Instagram so he'd want to be sure I mentioned him while I was here with you." The senator is apparently a fan.
The internet had a few laughs and memes like the following spread all over.
There are no winners here. Zuckerberg is humbled but still arrogant. Congress, for the most part, is completely out of touch.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to DC but I can tell you the only adults there are the elected members of Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Their staff is a collection of aspiring 20-year-olds pursuing dreams in the political arena. They know about tech but their bosses clearly do not.
It wasn't very long ago that Zuckerberg seemed to be testing the waters for a run at the White House. I talk about it in my free podcast.
Just click Play. My advice? Forget the White House, Zuckerberg.
Meanwhile – in the real world
The website Recode just published a new poll showing that Facebook is in a league of its own of bad public opinion.
Recode's survey asked people to choose which company they trust the least with their personal information. They had Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Microsoft, Netflix, Tesla, Twitter, Snap and Uber to choose from.
Some 56 percent put Facebook as least trusted. Next is Google, with 5 percent. Uber and Twitter finished tied for third, with 3 percent.
Business Insider reports that 9 percent of Americans have deleted their Facebook account and 35 percent said they were using Facebook less than they used to.
This is clearly an indication that people are concerned about Facebook's privacy issues. Facebook's scandal gets worse as more details emerge about how they tracked you like you never knew before. In this podcast, I talk to some of the leading technology and data breach attorneys, John Yanchunis and Steven Teppler, about what's in store for Facebook and also what we can do to protect ourselves in this age of dwindling privacy.. Have we lost trust in Facebook?
Click the play button to hear why it's become clear that your information is the currency of the 21st century.
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Post selfies? Shocking data Facebook is stealing from your pics
You might be tired of hearing about Facebook’s sneakiness by now, but this is important for you to know. Facebook is learning quite a bit every time you publish a picture. A treasure trove of data. What else does Facebook learn about you and your friends? You will want to click here to find out and learn how you can stop it from happening.