Closed Zuckerberg Testifies – As It Happened

Senator Orrin Hatch (R) says this is the most intense public scrutiny he has seen for a tech company hearing since the Microsoft hearings he chaired in the 1990s.

He seems to mock the “shock, shock” of users who don’t realise Facebook and Google extract user data, because they don’t charge people for access.

“Nothing in life is free. Everything involves tradeoffs. If you want something without having to pay money for it, you’re going to have to pay for it in some other way, it seems to me. That’s what we’re seeing here. These great websites that don’t charge for access, they extract value in some other way. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.

To my mind, the issue here is transparency. It’s consumer choice. Do users understand what they’re agreeing to when they access a website or agree to terms of service? Are websites up-front about how they extract value from users or do they hide the ball? Do consumers have the information they need to make an informed choice regarding whether or not to visit a particular website?

The senator asks

if Facebook will always be free. Zuckerberg says they will always have a free version.

Then he hands Zuckerberg a strange soft ball:

Hatch: If so, how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?

Zuckerberg: Senator, We run ads.

Senator Hatch warns against Congress’ over-regulation. He asks Zuckerberg how he would like to be regulated?.

Zuckerberg sets out his principles for possible legislation:

1. A “simple and practical” way to show what you are doing with data. Sounds a bit like the European General Data Protection Regulation but probably weaker in restrictions.

2. People should have control over what they share.

3. Legislation should enable innovation. He says there is a balance that is extremely important to strike. Companies should obtain special consent for sensitive features, like facial recognition, but they should be able to innovate to compete with Chinese competitors and others around the world.

Interesting first mention of China, where privacy standards are very different.

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