The US Senate recently shared over 450 pages of Facebook’s responses to questions from Senators, as the company attempted to address the numerous questions CEO Mark Zuckerberg was unable to answer during his April 10 testimony.
The testimony focused on the role Facebook played in a number of scandals involving the improper handling of user data, particularly in the year leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Ads from Russian operatives that were able to target users based on their interests and beliefs littered Facebook feeds, and many users became aware that their data had been improperly obtained by data analytics company Cambridge Analytica after founder Christopher Wylie came forward to say his company had used it to try and sway the election.
During Zuckerberg’s Senate hearing, a number of the senators’ questions went unanswered, either because the senators ran out of their allotted time or because the Facebook CEO said he was unable to provide the information on the spot. In those instances, Zuckerberg assured the senators that his team would follow up with more thorough responses and address any questions senators submitted in the allotted two-week window following the hearing.
The company came back two months later with these two densely packed documents. Upon going through them, some questions had more thorough responses than others, while a few seem to have gone under the radar completely. Facebook wasn’t immediately available to comment on the latter.
Here are 3 big questions from US senators that Facebook has yet to address:
What are all of the applications that Facebook has banned for transferring data in the past?
As of 2015, Facebook’s terms prohibit third-party application developers from transferring user data. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked for a list of the applications the company has deleted in violation of these terms in the past – meaning pre-scandal – but Facebook’s response didn’t share any applications’ names. It only shared numbers and some of the names of the app developers involved:
“To date around 200 apps (from a handful of developers: Kogan, AIQ, Cube You, the Cambridge Psychometrics Center, myPersonality, and AIQ) have been suspended-pending a thorough investigation into whether they did in fact misuse any data. Additionally, we have suspended an additional 14 apps, which were installed by around one thousand people.”
Is there any overlap between the <a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com.au/facebook-changing-statements-russian-meddling-2016-election-2017-11″ target=”_blank”>126 million Facebook users</a> potentially exposed to content from Russian operatives via the Internet Research Agency and the 87 million users affected by Cambridge Analytica?
Leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Russian troll farm Internet Research Agency (IRA) paid for 80,000 Facebook ads that were designed to further the divide between Americans, by appealing to hot-button issues like race and religion.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked Zuckerberg if Facebook has determined whether any of the 126 million Americans that may have been exposed to those ads overlapped with the millions of users – about 70 million Americans – whose data was shared with Cambridge Analytica.
“Senator, we’re investigating that now,” Zuckerberg responded. “We believe that it is entirely possible that there will be a connection there.” The question wasn’t addressed in the documents, however.
Is it possible that the data Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained and stored is in Russia?
During an interview following his initial reveal, Wylie said the user data his company obtained might be stored in Russia, according to Senator Klobuchar. She asked Zuckerberg if he agrees that that’s a possibility.
He responded by saying he had no specific knowledge that would suggest that, and added that Facebook is “committed to completing this full audit and getting to the bottom of what’s going on here, so that way we can have more answers to this.” The question went unaddressed in the follow-up document as well.
In May, Wylie told Senators in his own hearing, “I can’t say definitively, one way or the other, if these data sets did end up in Russia but what I can say is that it would have been very easy to facilitate that.”
Zuckerberg’s second testimony took place in front of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on April 11. A number of <a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com.au/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-cambridge-analytica-unanswered-questions-congressional-testimony-2018-4″ target=”_blank”>unanswered questions</a> came out of this one too, but Facebook hasn’t shared responses to their questions just yet.
The responses to the House – which had an additional 10 days after the hearing to send in questions to Facebook – are due by June 29. But House Democrats reportedly expected to get their answers a little sooner than the deadline they imposed, according to Gizmodo’s Dell Cameron, especially to those they felt Zuckerberg had inadequately answered during his testimony.
But Facebook says it received over 2,000 questions from the US Senate committees and House committee, and that it’s doing the best it can to keep that promise.
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