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5 big questions Zuck wouldn’t answer for Congress

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By Michael Martin, Metro

After two days of testimony before Senate and House committees this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got good reviews from reporters scoring it as a piece of theater, the company's stock shot up to its best day in two years, and as far as Facebook users go — well, there's a lot we don't know.

Zuckerberg was often noncommittal in his responses to lawmakers' questions. On Twitter, some joked that someone should total up the number of times he said someone on his staff would "get back to you on that." Wired took up the challenge and found the number: 43.

But some of those deferred answers are bigger than others, and some questions elicited words from Zuckerberg that weren't answers at all. Here are five of the biggest question marks to come out of the hearings.

1. Does Facebook track your internet activity outside of the platform?

News reports have surfaced about Facebook users who downloaded their Facebook data and saw that it contained cell phone call records and other information that had nothing to do with Facebook. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-WI) asked about this. "Senator, I want to make sure I get this accurate, so it would probably be better to have my team follow up afterward," Zuckerberg responded, in one of his more blatant dodges. He later added: "I know that people use cookies on the internet, and that you can probably correlate activity between sessions."

During the next day's House hearing, Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook tracks users even when they're not logged in. But how much tracking, of what data, on what devices, and how long is it kept? Everything, everywhere, always? We don't have a clue, although our suspicions have to be yes, yes and yes.

2. Will Facebook allow users to opt out of being tracked and ad-targeted?

Both lawmakers and Zuckerberg danced around this question. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) asked if Facebook would ever change its business model to better protect user privacy. Zuckerberg said, "I'm not sure what that means." Here it was Eshoo who said she'd follow up.

In the Senate hearing, Zuckerberg had said there would always be a version of Facebook that would be free. But are there plans to allow users to pay a monthly fee for an ad-free, untracked version of Facebook? (Streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Hulu have provided ad-free versions for years.) Congress didn't ask, and we don't know.

3. Will Facebook make its privacy policy — and changes to it — easier to understand?

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked why Facebook couldn't make things clearer. "Long privacy policies are very confusing," said Zuckerberg. "One of the things that we've struggled with over time is to make something that is as simple as possible so people can understand it, as well as giving them controls in line in the product in the context of when they're trying to actually use them." But will Facebook commit to making those privacy policies more easily digestible, or updates more transparent? Rep. Eshoo pressed him on the question. Zuck didn't say yes or propose any potential remedies.

4. Did Facebook work with Cambridge Analytica when they embedded with the Trump campaign?

It was previously known that representatives from Facebook worked with the Trump campaign to help them utilize the platform. (The company embedded with the Clinton campaign also, although it said both campaigns didn't accept the same amount of support.) Did they work with reps from Cambridge Analytica as part of that process? Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) wanted to know. Zuckerberg said Facebook would get back to her.

5. Did other companies or groups buy the data of the 87 million users tapped by Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica was able to access Facebook user data via a personality quiz built by Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University professor with ties to Russia. We know that Kogan sold the data to Cambridge Analytica and a company called Eunoia. Were there more? Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-MI) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) asked versions of that question in their chambers' hearings, and both got versions of the same answer: Facebook will get back to you.

Is it possible that other state-sponsored actors are using that information? Are users being manipulated somewhere, in some way, right now with that stolen data? That might be one of the most urgent questions of all.

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Technology - U.S. Daily News: 5 big questions Zuck wouldn’t answer for Congress
5 big questions Zuck wouldn’t answer for Congress
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Technology - U.S. Daily News
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