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Mark Zuckerberg grilled by Senate on data privacy, global influence and past mistakes

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took heat from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, in the first of two days of congressional hearings on privacy, election interference and a range of other issues, stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Zuckerberg, founder of one of the internet's most dominant companies, apologized and tried to convey that his company is changing. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We have two lead stories tonight.

    First, the White House now says that President Trump believes he has the power to fire the man running the Russia investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller. That follows an FBI raid on a member of the Trump inner circle, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. It was based on information from Mueller's team.

    We will have a full report after the news summary.

    Meanwhile, the head of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, says his company is working with the special counsel's probe of the Russian election meddling. That was one a range of issues raised as Zuckerberg faced off with 44 members of the United States Senate today.

    Our Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    For the social media maverick who's often behind the scenes, a very public lesson in scrutiny, as lawmakers grilled Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg with questions.

  • Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.:

    Why should we trust Facebook?

  • Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.:

    I believe you have all the talent. My question is whether you have all the will.

  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.:

    How can American consumers trust folks like your company to be caretakers of their most personal and identifiable information?

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    The CEO of one of the Internet's most dominant companies began with an apology.

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    This one week after Facebook revealed up to 87 million users' personal information was improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm hired by the Trump campaign in 2016.

    Cambridge Analytica then used that data to direct Trump campaign content toward individual users. Facebook admits it knew about that kind of data harvesting for at least two years, but only addressed it last month.

    Today's rare joint hearing by the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees was just one sign of the fury over the revelations.

    Zuckerberg's message? His company is changing.

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    We need to take a more proactive role and a broader view of our responsibility. It's not enough to just build tools. We need to make sure that they're used for good. At the end of the day, this is going to be something where people will measure us by our results.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    But that didn't satisfy senators. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, pressed Zuckerberg about why Facebook waited years to tell users about the Cambridge Analytica breach.

  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.:

    You apologized for it, but you didn't notify them. And do you think that you have an ethical obligation to notify 87 million Facebook users?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    We considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake.

    We shouldn't have taken their word for it. And we have updated our policies in how we're going to operate the company to make sure that we don't make that mistake again.

  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.:

    Did anybody notify the FTC?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    No, Senator.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    Some also honed in on repeated mistakes and apologies by Facebook over the years.

    Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune.

  • Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.:

    After more than a decade of promises to do better, how is today's apology different?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    So we have made a lot of mistakes running the company.

    I think it's pretty much impossible, I believe, to start a company in your dorm room and then grow it to be at the scale that we're at now without making some mistakes.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    Other senators, like Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar, pushed for specific fixes.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    Would you support a rule that would require you to notify users of a breach within 72 hours?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    Senator, that makes sense to me.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    This as Klobuchar and others push something called the Honest Ads Act, one of a long line of bills now focused on digital platforms like Facebook.

    It requires those companies to make sure no foreign interests can post campaign ads, and that the public be able to see who is behind every election ad. Facebook says it is doing that now, and more, launching easier ways for users to block access to their information, and promising to restrict how much data any outside company can access.

    But as Facebook tried to look forward, senators pointed back.

    Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal asked about Facebook's deal with Alexander Aleksandr Kogan, whose app gave Cambridge Analytica its access.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:

    I want to show you the terms of service that Aleksandr Kogan provided to Facebook, and note for you that, in fact, Facebook was on notice that he could sell that user information.

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    I have not.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:

    Who in Facebook was responsible for seeing those terms of service that put you on notice that that information could be sold?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    Senator, our app review team would be responsible for that.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:

    Has anyone been fired on that app review team?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    Senator, not because of this.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    Illinois Senator Dick Durbin asked about Zuckerberg's privacy.

  • Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.:

    Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    No.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:

    If you have messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you have messaged?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    Senator, no, I wouldn't choose to do that publicly here.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    Zuckerberg was twice pressed on whether Facebook tracks users across devices and after they leave the platform. He hesitated to answer.

  • Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.:

    There has been reports that Facebook can track a user's Internet browsing activity even after that user has logged off the Facebook platform. Can you confirm whether this is true?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    Senator, I want to make sure I get this accurate. So, it would probably be better to have my team follow up.

  • Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.:

    You don't know?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    I know that people use cookies on the Internet, and that you can probably correlate activity between sessions.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    Zuckerberg gave more specifics on a different topic, the threat from Russia. Facebook has said that Russians sent fake campaign ads to more than 100 million Facebook users in 2016.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    What is Facebook doing to prevent foreign actors from interfering in U.S. elections?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    This is one of my top priorities in 2018 is to get this right. I — one of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016.

    We expected them to do a number of more traditional cyber-attacks, which we did identify and notify the companies that they were trying to hack into them, but we were slow in identifying the type of new information operations.

  •  Lisa Desjardins:

    Zuckerberg was also pressed on if his company feeds global crisis. The U.N. and human rights groups accuse Facebook of allowing hateful anti-Muslim videos and other posts that facilitated violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    What's happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy and we need to do more.

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:

    We all agree with that.

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    OK.

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:

    But U.N. investigators have blamed you, blamed Facebook for playing a role in that genocide. We all agree it's terrible.

    How can you dedicate and will you dedicate resources to make sure such hate speech is taken down within 24 hours?

  • Mark Zuckerberg:

    One is, we're hiring dozens of more Burmese-language content reviewers, because hate speech is very language-specific. It's hard to do it without people who speak the local language.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As the hearing ran into the evening, one theme was constant; Facebook's power and how it handles that power. Zuckerberg will be in Washington at least one more night. He testifies before a House committee tomorrow.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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