While Congress lectures Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the importance of respecting user privacy, they ignore the fact that they are responsible for allowing illegal spying on millions of American citizens.
Members of the same government that is responsible for violating privacy laws and illegally collecting data from its citizens, openly lectured the CEO of a company for violating privacy laws and illegally collecting data from its users—a case of irony that could only play out in a country that brags about the unprecedented freedom enjoyed by its citizens.
The special congressional hearing on Facebook’s use of user data lasted for five hours on Tuesday, and the word “privacy” was mentioned nearly 100 times. While there were a number of questions as to whether Senators Diane Feinstein and Chuck Grassley—who are both 84 years old—fully grasped the concept of Facebook and its business model, the concerns about how the social media giant is treating its users was overwhelming.
“Consumers ought to have clearer information, not opaque policies and complex click-through consent pages. The tech industry has an obligation to respond to widespread and growing concerns over data privacy and security and to restore the public’s trust,” Grassley said. “The status quo no longer works. Moreover, Congress must determine if and how we need to strengthen privacy standards to ensure transparency and understanding for the billions of consumers who utilize these products.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, 75, insisted that if Facebook does not ensure privacy for its users, then Americans’ personal privacy will be jeopardized, requiring the government to interfere.
“If you and other social media companies do not get your act in order, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore. That’s what we’re facing,” Nelson said. “We’re talking about personally identifiable information that, if not kept by the social media–media companies from theft, a value that we have in America, being our personal privacy—we won’t have it anymore.”
However, there was one significant fallacy that is either not understood or is simply being ignored by the members of Congress who addressed Zuckerberg. When individuals create Facebook accounts they know that the photos they share are not their own anymore, they know that every time they react to a status or share their thoughts on a product or service, it will be used to create targeted advertisements that will appear in their newsfeeds.
Americans have the ability to decide whether they give Facebook access to their data, or whether they have a Facebook account at all. But they do not have the ability to decide whether their data is stolen and used by the U.S. government.