From the moment Mark Zuckerberg began to read his opening statement, you knew he wasn’t going to change Facebook.
Clueless politicians made it clear they didn’t understand Facebook, so members of Congress were unable to drill down into details of Facebook’s business model and just how much of your personal information is owned by thousands of companies.
Perplexed members of Congress suggesting Facebook change its business model to “fee-based” don’t understand the advertising business and how many hundreds of millions of dollars and users they would lose.
Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana was most articulate when he told Zuckerberg his company’s user agreement “sucks” and if he doesn’t change it, Congress will.
Which would be good news for Facebook.
If Congress creates new laws that make it hard to compete in this industry, it will certainly make it harder and more expensive for competition to enter the arena, as Facebook already has the lawyers and billions of dollars to compete.
Does this mean Congress should do nothing?
Of course not.
The European Union has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law that requires that users must be able to exercise certain new rights, including: 1) the right to view all data that a company holds about them, 2) the right to demand that the company restrict the usage of or delete that data.
Companies that don’t comply with the EU’s rules face a hefty fine - either 4 percent of an entity’s annual total revenue or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater.
Zuckerberg knows this is a threat to his business, so he offered to “extend” the GDPR to the U.S. However, when questioned about the extent to which Facebook would “voluntarily” extend these protections, he was vague... very vague.
IT security expert Josh Marpet of Redlion.io puts it this way:
“Every time you have an interaction with someone or something, there is transfer. If your car hits another car, there is paint transferred from one car to the other. If your aunt hits your other aunt, there’s probably some family gossip which just transferred! And if you interact with a website, an app, or a technological service of any kind, there is informational transfer.”
So what about all those free apps? Whatsapp? Facebook? WeChat? Snapchat? Linkedin? How do they make money?
They track where you go, who you talk to, what you click on, what you don’t click on, what phone calls you make, and more. The better their demographic knowledge of you, the better to personalize ads sent to you. They can feed you news and stories to make your blood boil, or your heart sing.
If you want to protect your data, the obvious think to do would be to quit Facebook. But if you want to continue to see your friends and family and they’re all on Facebook, here are some rules to live by if you want to protect your data:
- Don’t post anything “public.”
- Don’t use any Facebook apps, like Mafia Wars.
- Don’t log onto everything under the sun using Facebook, because then they’re gathering more data about you.
- Use the Facebook privacy settings!
It’s well past time to push Facebook to have a paid version, with no ads and no data gathering. That way, users can once again be Facebook’s customer, not its product.
Unfortunately, Zuckerberg entered the Senate Tuesday hearing like a mouse and left Congress on Wednesday like a lion.
That should concern you.
Rick Jensen is an annoying, award-winning Delaware talk show host and equally annoying national columnist. Email Rick@DBCMedia.com.