Zuckerberg's Facebook Hearing Lasts For Hours, Reveals Little

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Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg was questioned for approximately five hours by the U.S. Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday as part of a hearing that has been highly anticipated since news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal initially broke last month, but the happening itself revealed little about the manner in which Facebook operates and intends to do so going forward, outside of what was already known. Every Senator involved in the hearing was limited to just five minutes with the multi-billionaire, with that restriction effectively allowing no time for follow-up questions and many lines of inquiry not being targeted at pushing for new disclosures in the first place.

Mr. Zuckerberg was hence repeatedly questioned about the already widely reported and known fundamentals of Facebook’s business, including the manner in which it makes money and collects user data. The few original inquiries weren’t fully answered by the 33-year-old or were addressed with ambiguous statements, such as the question about the possibility of Facebook introducing a paid subscription service that would allow people to continue using the social network without having any of their data harvested. While Facebook’s chief didn’t want to rule out such a solution in the future, he indicated the idea currently isn’t being considered in a significant capacity, much like Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg did last week. Mr. Zuckerberg was unable to name a single Facebook competitor when asked to do so by Senator Lindsey Graham yet said that he “doesn’t feel” the company he created is a monopoly.

Senator Gary Peters was among the few lawmakers who presented Mr. Zuckerberg with a direct question, having asked him to answer whether Facebook listens to users via their smartphones, yet that inquiry has also been answered by the company on numerous occasions in the past, with the entrepreneur once again dismissing the allegation on Tuesday. “Your user agreement sucks,” Senator John Kennedy said at one point, but without following up on that assertion in a manner that revealed any new information about Facebook‘s practices and the extent to which it leverages user data. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is set to hold another hearing with Mr. Zuckerberg later today but most industry watchers don’t expect that happening to yield many more straightforward revelations about Facebook than the Tuesday one did.