Zuckerberg in the Hot Seat as Congresswoman Anna Eshoo Grills Him for Four Tense Minutes

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo keeps her offices in Palo Alto, where Mark Zuckerberg lives, so it was interesting political theater to watch her drilling her constituent about his company’s stewardship of Americans’ personal information.

In a clip distributed by her office to media, Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) gets the CEO to acknowledge that his own data was among the mined information.  He also acknowledges that the potential for misuse of psychographic profiling data was discovered by the company as early as 2015. That’s the year before Trump ran for president! Mark, what have you been doing for the past three years?

The Wednesday hearing at the House Energy and Commerce Committee pitted the congresswoman—one of the largest recipients of Facebook’s political contributions—against Zuckerberg, who could be seen pursing his lips and gulping hard during some of the yes/no questions that a time-throttled Eshoo pounded out during her four minutes of interrogation.

“I think the damage done to our democracy relative to Facebook and its platform being weaponized are incalculable,” Eshoo scolded the billionaire. “Enabling the cynical manipulation of American citizens for the purpose of influencing an election is deeply offensive. And it’s very dangerous. Putting our private information on offer without concern for possible misuses I think is simply irresponsible.”

“Do you think you have a moral responsibility to run a platform that protects our democracy? Yes or no?” Eshoo demanded.

Zuckerberg, perhaps startled by the ferocity of being given binary choices, started to answer the question one way, beginning, “Congresswoman,” then momentarily choked on his answer before switching gears and offering a timid “yes.”

She then asked if users affected by the “Cambridge Analytica debacle” had been notified about the data breach. Zuckerberg said yes, explaining that he believed the notification had started Monday,

While Facebook took more than two years to alert its users, it did contact Cambridge Analytica right away.  Zuckerberg confirmed under questioning, in which Eshoo frequently interrupted the flustered CEO saying she didn’t have time for a long answer, that “when we learned in 2015 that a Cambridge university researcher associated with the academic institution that built an app.... We shut down the app … We got in touch with them and we demanded they delete any data that they had.”

“Their chief data officer told us that they had,” he said.

A large chunk of Facebook’s support for Eshoo comes from its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who’s an obvious successor to Zuckerberg if the company’s board decides to follow the Silicon Valley tradition of replacing brilliant young founders who stumble with corporate executives who drive between the lines.

9 Comments

  1. doesn’t the govt already watch everybody and keep info on us? seems that FB is just a backup system for that.
    of course the Russians an Chinese keep tabs on us as well I imagine – –

    • You’re exactly right Hugh, although FB is on the hot seat right now, they’ll weather the storm and put the rest of the tech giants on notice. I couldn’t believe I went into a store the other day, couldn’t find what I wanted, asked a salesman and left after he said they didn’t have it. Next day I get an email telling me, thank you for the business please come back another day. That’s all well and good, but I didn’t leave my name, sign some list or post any identity at all. Which means there’s software out there that triggers my phone and makes my information available to the store. That’s just one store. Who says “big brother,” isn’t watching.

  2. This is a bunch of old congressmen and women who don’t understand tech representing old people who don’t understand tech trying to ask gotcha questions. Millenials don’t really care about this.

    • Millenials don’t really care about this.

      And that is a problem, they should care a lot about so much power, financial and political, residing in one person’s hands.

  3. > Millenials don’t really care about this.

    They’ll start caring about it when THEY get banned from Twitter of Facebook for saying something snarky about Zuckerberg’s booster chair.

    • Good point SJOBT! Beware of the pretty snake who amuses you as his poison is quite potent and lethal! Play with him at your peril!

  4. An out of touch old Democratic hag from the great cesspool of CA… Im no fan of Zuck but she is an old bag of wind and a bit out of touch with the tech world.

  5. Hmmm…. Apparently Sen. Eshoo has no problem with and might even agree with Facebook Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bosworth who is quoted as remarking ” So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. Anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good”! Why a sick depraved individual would ever consider making such a statement if it were not true and why wouldn’t Eshoo consider asking the CEO of Facebook why this dirtbag morally corrupt high level manager is still employed as VP and whether or not Zuckerberg agrees with his VP’s statement. Is Bosworth’s statement actually Facebook policy and included in their mission statement? Instead Eschoo throws Zuckerberg low ball questions of no consequence. What a disgrace! Maybe Eschoo is just ignorant or maybe as morally corrupt as Facebook management. What a pity!

  6. Zukie’s apology sounded like something a 12 year old would say after spilling the milk for the umpteenth time. Better to apologize if caught than to voluntarily disclose, eh Zuckie?

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