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Amid Cambridge Analytica revelations, Facebook needs ‘rules of the road,’ says Sen. Klobuchar

Facebook is at the center of a new firestorm, sparked by media reports that political data firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign, harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles -- and Facebook never told the users. John Yang talks to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., about calls for greater accountability from the tech giant.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Facebook has been under fire for months now for everything from its handling of fake news to the Russia investigation and more.

    But, as John Yang tells us, this weekend's revelations are leading to calls for much tougher accountability.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, Facebook is under scrutiny now on both sides of the Atlantic.

    It comes after The New York Times and the British newspaper The Guardian reported that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked for the Trump campaign, harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles, and that Facebook never told its users.

    The newspapers say the firm used that information to target political messages.

    We are now joined to talk about this by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Senator, thanks for joining us.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

    Thanks, John.

  • John Yang:

    I know, earlier today, you sent a letter to Senator Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, with your Republican colleague John Kennedy of Louisiana, calling for hearings and calling for Mark Zuckerberg to be called to testify.

    Have you heard back from the chairman? Do you have any sense of whether the chairman is going to do that?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

    Well, we have heard he is considering it, which I would imagine he would do. And I think I will talk to him personally about it tomorrow.

    I think it's really important that we, one, have a hearing about Cambridge Analytica and get the head of Cambridge Analytica there, but also do a hearing focused on the social media heads, because we have heard from their lawyers and their lobbyists.

    And Senator Kennedy and I Thursday, before this all blew up, had asked Senator Grassley for such a hearing. And the reason that we did is, one, we see this political season upon us, and we believe that you need to have a full vetting of what's going on here. We have ads that don't have disclaimers, ads that don't have disclosures.

    We have spent over $1 billion in the last election — it's forecast to go to $3 billion to $4 billion — in candidate and issue ads in 2020, and there are no rules of the road. So that's one thing.

    And the second, of course, is this data breach. And I'm tired of hearing it's not a breach. It doesn't matter if someone breaks into my apartment with a crowbar or if the manager gives them the keys. If they take stuff out of it, it's still a breach.

  • John Yang:

    And Facebook says that the privacy settings on all these accounts were honored. What does that tell you about — is it time for regulation to make it tougher on Facebook to protect these — this information?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

    Yes.

    And that's why we want to have this hearing, because these are brilliant companies with brilliant people working at them. And we're tired of hearing, well, hey, it's the Internet and so anything goes.

    Not anything goes when you have foreign countries that are influencing our democracy, when you have an indictment of 13 Russians that feature the fact that they actually were buying ads, buying ads, some in rubles, that tried to mess around in our election.

    And that is just wrong. And I think we're going to need some rules of the road here.

  • John Yang:

    Talking about those rules of the road, The New York Times is just reporting that the chief information security officer at Facebook is leaving the company after he was pressing for greater investigation and greater disclosure about what the Russians were doing on Facebook.

    If the guy pushing for greater investigation, greater transparency is out, what does that tell you about Facebook?

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

    You know, I don't know enough details about that, but it's just another reason why we would like Mark Zuckerberg, as well as the CEOs of the other social media companies — and I emphasize media companies — to come before us.

    This has been going on now for well over a year, where we know there have been some major breaches, and we also know they have been opposing our bill that simply says that they have to abide by the same rules that any TV station does or my radio station in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, when they run a political or issue ad.

    And, so far, they have been stonewalling it, all of these social media companies. They have made some changes on their own, but it's going to be really tough going into the election season. We know the Russians tried to hack into our election infrastructure. I'm working hard, and I hope we're going to find out some good news this week, on getting the bill passed I have with Senator Lankford and the money included in the omnibus bill to give money to the states to protect our election equipment.

    But the other piece of this is, we cannot close our eyes and put our heads in the sand and say, oh, they're not going to do this again on social media. They are. In the words of Dan Coats, the — President Trump's director of intelligence, they're getting bolder.

    That means more bad ads. And it also means more dark ads. So why not put some rules of the road in place now? They clearly have told us over and over again, hey, trust us, this is our platform, we will protect you.

    Well, 50 million Americans can now say, no, sorry, that didn't work out for me. My private data was given to Trump campaign consultants, when I didn't give permission to have to happen.

  • John Yang:

    Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

    Thank you. It's great to be on, John.

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