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Kennedy: Unanswered Questions In Facebook Privacy Issue

By Jim Hand, THE SUN CHRONICLE (Massachusetts)

April 15, 2018

http://www.thesunchronicle.com/news/local_news/kennedy-unanswered-quest…

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified for 10 hours over two days before the House and Senate last week, but U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III said many questions remain.

Kennedy, D-Brookline — who was one of the 100 members of Congress who questioned Zuckerberg — said many of the questions were not fully answered.

Part of the problem, he said, is Zuckerberg was not always forthcoming and part of it was that members only got four minutes to ask their questions.

By the time the question was framed and Zuckerberg’s response was given, it was too late to follow up and try to pin Zuckerberg down, the congressman said.

Kennedy said he wanted a clear-cut answer on how much information about Facebook users is available to advertisers, among other things.

Zuckerberg was questioned by Congress after revelations that Cambridge Analytica obtained information from about 87 million Facebook users from a third party.

The firm was employed by the Trump campaign for the 2016 presidential election.

Members of Congress are starting to talk about whether Facebook and other social media firms should be regulated to protect consumers.

Kennedy said one obstacle to protections is social media outlets such as Facebook do not fit neatly into the traditional types of industries Congress normally regulates.

He said Zuckerberg considers Facebook a technology company, but Kennedy said it also has elements of a media and entertainment company.

While Zuckerberg’s testimony and the privacy issues with Facebook were big news in Washington, some local users of Facebook seemed unconcerned.

Kim Cruz Flynn, on The Sun Chronicle’s Facebook page, downplayed concerns saying people know what they are getting into when they go on the internet.

“We all knew. Come on really, if I go to Google and I search a local restaurant for a brunch, then I go to my (Facebook) there are local brunch ads. If I go to the Toys R Us site or Babies R Us site looking for little tykes outdoor swing sets, I go back on fb ... ads come up on my page and many other things I have searched. To say we didn’t already know this is a crock,” she wrote.

The privacy breaches have led to speculation that many people would leave Facebook to protect their personal information.

But, a survey of 1,000 people by Techpinions found only 9 percent said they would delete their accounts.

And some contend getting off Facebook will not solve the problem.

“Even if you delete your Facebook account, the damage has already been done. They already own your info, you gave it away when you signed up,” Facebook user Chris Brousseau said on The Sun Chronicle page.

Still, the attention Congress brought to the issue may be having an impact.

Jamie Court of the group Consumer Watchdog said Facebook made a dramatic change in its policy when it withdrew its opposition to a privacy measure in California last week.

“The proposed ballot measure would allow consumers to file suit against companies that allowed customers’ personal information to be stolen even if they were not hurt financially by it.

“That tells me they are at least paying lip service to consumer (concerns),” he said.

He urged Zuckerberg to go further and get other technology companies to drop their opposition and become “the face of consumer protection in Silicon Valley.”

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has gone even further. He has proposed legislation that would create what he is calling a consumer bill of rights to protect privacy.

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or jhand@thesunchronicle.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

 

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