The U.S. Representative for California’s 18th congressional district Anna Eshoo started by setting the tone. “First, I believe that our democratic institutions are undergoing a stress test in our country,” she said. “Putting our private information on offer without concern for possible misuses is simply irresponsible,” she added.
Eshoo asked her constituents to submit questions that they want to ask Zuckerberg. The result is an intense four-minute yes-or-no round of questions.
While Zuckerberg was pretty good at answering yes or no to Eshoo’s questions, it wasn’t so simple with the business model question. “Are you willing to change your business model in the interest of protecting individual privacy?” she asked.
“Congresswoman, we have made and are continuing to make changes to reduce the amount of data…” Zuckerberg said. Eshoo stopped him and repeated her question word for word.
“Congresswoman, I’m not sure what that means,” Zuckerberg said.
Earlier questions were also quite telling. “Do you think you have a moral responsibility to run a platform that protects our democracy? Yes or no?” she asked. After a short hesitation, Zuckerberg answered yes.
Later in the conversation, Eshoo asked if Facebook would offer a blanket opt-in option to share their personal data with third-party companies.
“Congresswoman, yes, that’s how our platform works. You have to opt in to sign in to any app before you use it,” Zuckerberg said.
“Let me just add that it is a minefield in order to do that and you have to make it transparent, clear, in pedestrian language: ‘this is what we will do with your data, do you want this to happen or not?’ So I think this is being blurred, I think you know what I mean,” Eshoo said.
Even more interesting, when Zuckerberg said that Facebook was investigating third-party developers who “had access to large amounts of data,” Eshoo couldn’t take it.
“What does that mean?” she said. Zuckerberg repeated his answer about the internal investigation, without clarifying what Zuckerberg means by large amounts of data and who qualifies for that.
No other representative thought about asking a basic question about Cambridge Analytica’s data. Eshoo asked if Zuckerberg’s data was included in the data sold to the malicious third parties. Zuckerberg simply answered “yes.”