Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch essentially questioned one of the primary argumentative cruxes against Facebook during a joint Senate hearing Tuesday.
“Some profess themselves shocked, shocked that companies like Facebook and Google share user data with advertisers,” the long-time lawmaker said after saying, “this is the most intense public scrutiny” he’s seen for a tech-related hearing since Microsoft, presumably the one in 1998. “Did any of these individuals ever stop to ask themselves why Facebook and Google don’t charge for access? Nothing in life is free. Everything involves tradeoffs. If you want something without having to pay money for it, you’re gonna have to pay for it in some other way it seems to me.”
Zuckerberg remained motionless during Hatch’s statement, but went on to answer in the affirmative when Hatch asked if he plans on maintaining Facebook’s free of charge ethos.
“It is our mission to try to help connect everyone around the world and bring the world closer together,” Zuckerberg replied. “In order to do that, we believe that we need to offer a service that everyone can afford, and we’re committed to doing that.”
Hatch implied the data usage and sharing itself isn’t the problem.
“In my mind, the issue here is transparency. It’s consumer choice,” Hatch continued. “Do users understand what they’re agreeing to when they access a website or agree to terms of service? Are websites up front about how they extract value from users or do they hide the ball? Do consumers have the information they need to make an informed choice regarding whether or not to visit a particular website.”
Hatch’s set of questioning and statements highly suggest he doesn’t see the main problem being the fact Facebook ultimately uses people’s data for profit, since that arguably should have been assumed or obvious, and since a lot of other companies do the same.
“How do you sustain a business model that people don’t pay for your service?” Hatch asked.
“Senator, we run ads,” Zuckerberg responded simply, while subsequently equaling a small smile made by Hatch.
Facebook may just need to be more upfront about what they do with people’s information, specifically the personal details and personality traits they provide and the data collected based on online tendencies, Hatch argued.
Facebook’s terms of services, particularly its data usage rules, is only a few or so pages long, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the presiding Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed out earlier during the hearing. Zuckerberg refuted the insinuation that it is insufficiently lengthy because often when those digital contracts are too verbose and filled with legalese, people complain that its too confusing and perhaps even purposefully obfuscatory.
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