Congress fails to pin Zuckerberg down on Facebook’s future
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, denied that the social network’s phone app listened to user’s conversations with the mics on their smartphones. During Zuckerberg’s testimony before the United States Senate, Senator Gary Peters asked the CEO if the social network mined audio from mobile devices and noted that members of his constituents and his staff believed it to be true.
“Something that I’ve been hearing a lot from folks who have been coming up to me and talking about a kind of experience they’ve had where they’re having a conversation with friends — not on the phone, just talking. And then they see ads popping up fairly quickly on their Facebook (app),” the Senator explained. “So I’ve heard constituents fear that Facebook is mining audio from their mobile devices for the purposes of ad targeting — which I think speaks to the lack of trust that we’re seeing here… Yes or no: Does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users?”
Simply replying “No”, Zuckerberg denied audio data collection was occurring and it was not the first time. In 2016 Facebook stated that categorically it does not use cell phone microphones to inform ads or News Feed stories.
Peters mentioned that this conspiracy theory showed people were growing ever more mistrustful of the tech giant, but several logical follow-up questions to try and pin down future strategies were left unasked. Could Facebook keep the microphone operating and record conversations any time the phone was on? Wouldn’t such data provide a windfall in user data and therefore greater profits? Would Zuckerberg promise to never collect such information?
While the Senator scored points with Americans of all political stripes, more should have been done to define possible courses of action in years to come.
Other Senators and members of the House of Representatives the following day further probed into Facebook’s current operations, but largely also failed to ask about what new potential privacy practices may be on the horizon.