Facebook is "not a surveillance organization," co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this week while testifying in front of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce. During the five-hour hearing prompted by the recent Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, the multi-billionaire repeatedly explained that Facebook allows users to opt out of a wide variety of its data collection programs. "I don't know of any surveillance organization that does that," Mr. Zuckerberg said, concluding that Facebook hence cannot be considered as such in good faith.
The 33-year-old still refused to commit to changing the company's business model in order to additionally protect the privacy of its individual users during the same hearing. When Congresswoman Anna Eshoo inquired about the matter, Facebook's head said he's "not sure what that means." Mr. Zuckerberg repeatedly pointed to artificial intelligence technologies as the firm's planned solution for policing its platform in a more effective manner and preventing large-scale misuse that's been rampant in previous years. The Cambridge Analytica controversy itself stems from a 2014 incident that saw the American political consulting firm in question buy data of up to 87 million Facebook users from a researcher whose personality quiz app harvested information of 270,000 people who installed it and all of their online friends, with the latter group not consenting to the surreptitious activity in any manner or even being aware of it. Cambridge Analytica was also accused of leveraging that data to assist the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election but denied those allegations on numerous occasions and agreed to an independent forensic audit of its servers to prove it had deleted the data in question a year after obtaining it at Facebook's request.
Facebook still collects a wide variety of user data as part of its business model that allows it to continue offering its platform as a technically free product and has no intentions of ever fully transitioning the world's largest social media network to a paid-only service as many people would never be able to pay for it, Mr. Zuckerberg said. The company also collects some data on non-users for "security purposes," according to the CEO, who denied having direct knowledge of the widely reported term "shadow profiles" during the Wednesday hearing and hasn't responded to questions about whether Facebook will ever allow non-users, i.e. people who don't have Facebook accounts to request their harvested data be deleted from the firm's servers.