Facebook in 2018: 5 Highlights from Zuckerberg’s Senate Hearing

April 18, 2018 Kathy Bryan

This is the fourth article within the “Facebook in 2018” series inclusive of top issues, fundamental changes and expectations for the year. Click here to see a list of the other posts within this series.

On Tuesday, April 10, Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Throughout the day, Zuckerberg responded to questions from 44 senators on topics ranging from election meddling to discrimination to privacy concerns. The full transcript of Zuckerberg’s testimony before the Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees is available here. This blog post, part of our “Facebook in 2018” series, highlights topics addressed during the hearing that matter most to digital marketers.

1. Facebook Will Always Have a Free Version… Even if They Launch a Paid Version

In an April interview with NBC News, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg mentioned the possibility for a paid ad-free version of Facebook in the future. When Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked Zuckerberg if a model that allows for user monetization of their data had been mapped out, Zuckerberg admitted he did not know how it would work. Zuckerberg then explained, “a number of people suggest that we should offer a version where people cannot have ads if they pay a monthly subscription, and certainly we consider ideas like that.” He noted that the free format of Facebook may provide the best user experience. “I think in general,” Zuckerberg continued, “people like not having to pay for a service. A lot of people can't afford to pay for a service around the world, and this aligns with our mission the best.”

When questioned by Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) regarding future plans, Zuckerberg confirmed, “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”


2. Facebook Is Getting Tough on Third-Party Apps

Back in 2014, Facebook removed third-party app access to friend data. Now, the Facebook team is in the process of investigating every app that had access to large amounts of data and they plan to ban any app that improperly used data.

Senator Grassley (R-IA) asked Zuckerberg if they have uncovered instances (outside of Cambridge Analytica and its related ventures) of apps breaching Facebook terms. Zuckerberg did not have a list of banned apps available to him during the testimony.

Facebook has asked more than one entity to delete improperly transferred data, according to Zuckerberg testimony. But no volume figures were provided.

“Going forward,” Zuckerberg claimed, “we’re going to take a more proactive position on this [third-party app use of data] and do much more regular stock checks and other reviews of apps, as well as increasing the amount of audits that we do.” He also confirmed that third-party apps will need to ask for user consent before collecting most data, and that Facebook has committed to informing users if they identify improper use of data.


3. New Facebook Rules Are in Place to Prevent Another Cambridge Analytica

Zuckerberg declared Facebook is “getting to the bottom of exactly what Cambridge Analytica did, and telling everyone affected.” He outlined what Facebook knows so far about the incident:

  • Cambridge Analytica purchased Facebook user data from Aleksandr Kogan, the developer of third-party app thisisyourdigitallife.
  • The improperly accessed data included information people shared on their Facebook pages.
  • In 2015, the Cambridge Analytica Chief Data Officer sent an email to Facebook to confirm data deletion.
  • Facebook followed up with a legal contract, and Cambridge Analytica certified the deletion.
  • Earlier this year, Facebook learned Cambridge Analytica had not deleted the data.
  • Cambridge Analytica plus related firms and individuals have been banned from Facebook.

Zuckerberg confirmed knowledge that Kogan sold data to additional firms, including Eunoia. Facebook is now working with U.S., U.K. and other governments to further investigate the Cambridge Analytica case.

Facebook has significantly limited third-party app access to Facebook user data. See our post “Facebook in 2018: 4 Fundamental Changes” for additional details.


4. Facebook Shares Data with Advertisers (They Don’t Sell It)

During the hearing, Zuckerberg dispelled a common Facebook misperception. “We do not sell data to advertisers. We don't sell data to anyone,” proclaimed Zuckerberg

Using a combination of first-party (advertiser) data, second-party (Facebook) data and third-party data, Facebook allows advertisers to target and reach tightly defined audiences. Within a matter of months, third-party data will no longer be available to advertisers within the Facebook platform, but this issue was not addressed during the Senate hearing.


5. Regulation Is on the Horizon

This is not the first time Facebook has been in hot water, and it may not be the last. During the Senate hearings, Facebook was noted as an ideal universe for connectivity. But as Senator John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) said, “Our promised digital utopia… has minefields.” He declared, “There's some impurities in the Facebook punch bowl. And they've got to be fixed, and I think you can fix them.”

Over the course of the day’s inquiries, Zuckerberg recommended refining how internet and social media companies detail their terms of use and privacy policies to make them more easily digestible. He also emphasized the need for user-control of data, something Facebook proudly provides. At the same time, Zuckerberg cautioned against regulation that would restrict innovation.


Are you concerned with how Facebook changes may impact your campaigns? Contact Team DMS to schedule a call.

Our social advertising experts can help you navigate the landscape to ensure your campaigns continue to perform.

Click on the links below to read the other articles within the Facebook in 2018 series:

Click the link below to download the Facebook eBook: 

Facebook in 2018: A Recap of Recent Facebook Trials in the Media & on Capitol Hill. 

"Facebook in 2018" Series Sources

About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Media Solutions (DMS). In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS, the leading global martech company leveraging innovative, performance-driven brand and marketplace solutions to connect consumers and advertisers.

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