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Testimony to US Congress

Mark Zuckerberg’s Testimony to US Congress: What We Know so Far

In the wake of the data scandal that involved millions of people’s personal data being potentially shared with Cambridge Analytica, Mark Zuckerberg—CEO and co-founder of Facebook—faced US Congress to answer for the company’s involvement. Here’s what we know so far.

The scandal

The lid was lifted on Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica after the Observer published an account from a former worker from the firm. The academic, Aleksandr Kogan, had apparently used a personality quiz to harvest personal data from users of the social network and, through a company called Global Science Research (GSR), shared that information with Cambridge Analytica. At present, it is believed that 87 million people may have been affected (this figure includes both those who took the test as well as their friends, whose personal records the app also had access to).

In the US, Cambridge Analytica is backed by the Mercer family, whose heavy influence was thrown into championing Donald Trump during the presidential election in 2016. It is this association that has sparked allegations of election manipulation. Further revelations surfaced after Channel 4 News in the UK revealed a separate undercover investigation in which Alexander Nix, head of Cambridge Analytica, was filmed boasting of using dirty tactics in order to successfully swing elections. The incident saw Nix speak about an opportunity in Sri Lanka where he mentioned the creation of sex scandals and the use of fake news to swing votes.

Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress

This Tuesday, Zuckerberg faced US Congress for the first time since the scandal hit the headlines. Questions from the senate commerce and judiciary committees were fired at Zuckerberg on a number of pressing topics including privacy, regulations, data mining and Cambridge Analytica during the five-hour long hearing. Bombarded with cameras, Zuckerberg’s countenance was collected yet alert.

On rights to privacy

When asked in detail about user rights to privacy, Zuckerberg said the following:

“I believe it’s important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used.

“To your broader point about the privacy policy […] long privacy policies are very confusing. And if you make it long and spell out all the detail, then you’re probably going to reduce the percent of people who read it and make it accessible to them.”

Senator Jon Tester then asked him: “You said multiple times during this hearing that I own the data. I’m going to tell you that I think that sounds good, but in practice you’re making $40 billion a year, I’m not making money on it. It feels like you own the data […] could you give me some idea on how you can honestly say it’s my data?”

Zuckerberg responded with, “When I say it’s your data, what we mean is that you have control over how it’s used on Facebook. You clearly need to give Facebook a license to use it otherwise the system doesn’t work.”

Tester countered with: “The fact is the license is very thick, maybe intentionally so.”

Cambridge Analytica

When probed on Facebook’s relationship and dealings with Cambridge Analytica, he said: “[From] what my understanding was … they were not on the platform, [they] were not an app developer or advertiser. When I went back and met with my team afterwards, they let me know that Cambridge Analytica actually did start as an advertiser later in 2015.

“So we could have in theory banned them then. We made a mistake by not doing so.

“When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it. We’ve updated our policy to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”

Storing and selling data

“Yes, we store data… some of that content with people’s permission,” said the Facebook CEO.

When Senator Tammy Baldwin asked whether the neuroscientist Kogan had shared the data with any other users aside from Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg replied: “Yes, he did.”

Senator Cory Gardner read out parts of the terms of service offered by Facebook relating to account deletion—which mentions that backup copies of the profile may persist after an account is deleted for some amount of time—and questioned Zuckerberg about it. Zuckerberg said that he doesn’t really know how long those backup copies are kept, but generally expressed his belief that they are actually deleted.

Rules and regulations

Senator John Kennedy: “I don’t want to regulate Facebook but god help you I will […] I say this gently: your user agreement sucks. You can spot me 75 IQ points. The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end; it’s not to inform your users about their rights. You know that and I know that. I’m going to suggest that you go home and rewrite it.”

Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress continued: “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.

“We’re investigating every single app that had access to a large amount of information in the past. And if we find that someone improperly used data, we’re going to ban them from Facebook and tell everyone affected.”

Russian interference

“One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016.

“We have kicked off an investigation … I imagine we’ll find some things,” Zuckerberg continued.

“This is an on-going arms race. As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job is it to try to interfere in elections around the world, this is going to be an on-going conflict.”

Zuckerberg’s personal privacy

When asked by Senator Dick Durbin if he would be comfortable sharing the name of the hotel he stayed in last night he said: “No. I would probably not choose to do that publicly, here.”

“I think everyone should have control over how their information is used,” he added.

Accountability

In the closing of Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress, he took responsibility for the situation, citing his position and interest in making positive changes for the future: “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.

“It was my mistake and I’m sorry.”

Are you convinced by Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress? Do you believe regulation will improve or is this the beginning of the end for Facebook? Give us your comments below.

Further reading: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: All You Need to Know

Market Yourself Social Media

Market Yourself on Social Media

Statistics tell us that in 2017 alone 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile—but how can you market yourself on social media professionally?

It’s amazing the way people perceive someone from a simple, yet detailed, social media website such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. The saying is true: “A picture says a thousand words.” So how do you make yourself more appealing when it comes to prospective head hunters looking for their next applicant?

To market yourself on social media, eliminate all those old photos starring you holding a beer bong or a bottle of liquor with your tongue hanging out—for starters. Sure, save them onto your computer so you can look back someday and laugh at your memories, but remove them from social media because employers will take a look at a candidate’s social media profiles. The last impression you want to make on a prospective employer is that you’re unprofessional and irresponsible. There’s a time and place for everything, and as we get older, we need to leave a lasting, positive impression for those who may help us plant seeds for long and prosperous career.

A person’s perception of you can change in an instant. All it takes is some light “Facebook stalking” to find out where you might live, who you’re currently dating and the things you enjoy doing. I, personally, have found myself reeling in shock after seeing an old friend’s social media page. It makes you wonder what kind of life they’re living and this is what potential employers will think, as well. Even though you may not be connected on social media, your profile picture is very much visible and certain information about yourself could be posted publicly. To market yourself on social media to a professional standard, hide anything that may potentially harm your reputation—such as offensive public statuses or tweets—and make a future boss reconsider adding you to the team. Instead, consider publishing your academic and professional achievements. You can also use platforms like Twitter and Facebook to build a network of like-minded professionals by making groups or forums for topical discussions. This will help future employers see that you are serious and passionate about the industry you’re applying for.

Not every profile photo of yours needs to be of you wearing professional attire or a head shot you had snapped at Sears. Just try to keep it moderately conservative and classy. Don’t be too revealing in certain areas—if you catch my drift. Men: this goes for you, too. Keep status updates to a minimum so it doesn’t appear that you spend a majority of your day with your nose in your phone. Yes, we all have our opinions on politics, children and lifestyles; to a head hunter, however, an aggressive and assertive personality could spark controversy in an office setting—this is a big turn-off for someone in search of a solid candidate. So keep those blunt thoughts between you and friends, and off of your social media accounts.

I’m not saying do not be true to who you are—by all means, be yourself. Just remember though, you’re not the only person viewing your profile. Words mean something, an image represents something, and social media portrays you. Don’t be fake, just be smart. A positive mind is the beginning to a positive life. You know that Memories notification you get on Facebook every day that displays everything you posted on that very day over the past um-teen years? Wouldn’t you love to look back at it in a year and say, “Wow, I’ve come a long way since then.” Welcome to adulthood!

Further reading: Using LinkedIn

Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: All You Need to Know

Tech giant Facebook and data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica are embroiled in a dispute over the harvesting and misappropriation of personal data.

The controversy centers on whether data was used to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

As a result, bipartisan consensus is calling on Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress about Cambridge Analytica’s use of data.

It’s a sensational story—involving allegations of sleaze, psychological manipulation and data misuse—that has provoked international outrage.

 But what is Cambridge Analytica? And why should its involvement with Facebook concern us?

College News investigates.

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica, a data mining, brokerage and analysis company, uses data analysis and behavioral science with strategic communication to connect its clients with their audiences.

It has been credited with helping Donald Trump to victory.

On its website, CA describes itself as: ‘the global leader in data-driven campaigning with over 25 years of experience, supporting more than 100 campaigns in five continents.

‘Our team of PHD data scientists, expert researchers, and seasoned political operatives have produced decisive results for campaigns and initiatives throughout the world.’

Its most notable work involves the 2016 US presidential election campaign, and the Leave.EU campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

CA’s involvement in both campaigns has been highly controversial and is the subject of on-going criminal investigations in both countries.

The company is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes.

It maintains offices in London, New York City and Washington, D.C.

A series of undercover investigative videos, released in March 2018, showed Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix bragging about using prostitutes, bribery and ‘honey traps’ to discredit politicians whom it conducts opposition research on.

Mr Nix has since claimed the videos grossly misrepresent him and he was ‘deliberately trapped.’

What is Facebook’s role?

A quiz in 2014 invited Facebook users to find out their personality types.

The quiz, which took the form of a Facebook app, was deigned and developed by Dr Aleksandr Kogan, from the University of Cambridge.

Dr Kogan, who claims he is being painted as an academic ‘scapegoat’, said he developed the ‘research app’ because he wanted the data to model human behavior through social media.

The app, called ‘This is Your Digital Life’, collected data from around 270,000 users.

As was common with Facebook apps and games at the time, it was designed to harvest not only the data of the person using it, but also their friends’ data.

Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie said, as a result, the data of about 50 million people was harvested for the analysis firm.

Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica deny any wrongdoing.

And Facebook has since clamped down on the amount data developers can scrape in this way.

What investigations are under way?

A number of US senators, both Republican and Democrat, have called on Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress on how Facebook will protect users.

‘Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify under oath in public before the Judiciary Committee. He owes it to the American people who ought to be deeply disappointed by the conflicting and disparate explanations that have been offered,’ Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told reporters Monday evening.

So far Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has not revealed what he intends to do.

Two other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Neely Kennedy, R-Louisiana, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, sent a letter on Monday to Grassley requesting a wider hearing with tech CEOs from Twitter, Facebook and Google.

The demand for greater transparency from Facebook spans multiple committees from across both chambers.

Late Monday, the chairman of the Senate Committee, John Thune, R-South Dakota, sent a letter to Zuckerberg demanding answers by March 29 about the type of user data Cambridge Analytica was able to gain access to.

The UK and European Parliament are also launching their own investigations.

How do I protect my Facebook account?

To protect your Facebook account, implement the following steps:

  • Log in to Facebook and visit the App setting page
  • Click edit button under Apps, Websites and Plugins
  • Disable platform

This will mean you won’t be able to use third-party sites on Facebook. But if that is a step too far, you can limit the personal information apps can access by:

  • Logging into Facebook’s App setting page;
  • Unclicking every category you don’t want the App to access—which includes, bio, family, religious views, posts on your timeline, activities and interests.

Other advice:

  • Never click a ‘like’ button on a product service page;
  • If you want to play games and quizzes, don’t log in through Facebook; go directly to the site.