Sen. Roy Blunt, (R–Mo.), for instance, didn’t seem to understand that Facebook lacks a means of accessing information from other apps unless users specifically opt in. The same was true of Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.), who needed a lot of clarification on how Facebook Messenger interacts with cellular service. Zuckerberg had to carefully explain to Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) that WhatsApp is encrypted, and Facebook can’t read, let alone monetize, the information people exchange using that service. Zuckerberg had to explain to multiple senators, including Dean Heller (R–Nev.), that Facebook doesn’t technically sell its data: The ad companies don’t get to see the raw information.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) brought along a poster on which his office had printed out images of various Facebook pages. Leahy asked whether these were Russian propaganda groups. “Senator, are you asking about those specifically?” Zuckerberg asked. He of course had no way of knowing what was going on with those specific pages, just from looking at pictures of them. “I’m not familiar with those pieces of content,” Zuckerberg finally conceded.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) offered this metaphor to explain Facebook’s recent troubles: “the way I explain it to my constituents is that if someone breaks into my apartment with a crowbar and takes my stuff, it’s just like if the manager gave them the keys.” But that metaphor doesn’t quite work—Facebook didn’t willfully assist in a crime. Meanwhile, Sen. Debbie Fischer (R–Neb.) didn’t understand, at a fundamental level, that if you’re using Facebook, you have agreed to let Facebook know a lot of information about you.
Like Congress, Facebook is creepy and overbearing, but unlike Congress it can be uninstalled with ease.