By Collette Watson and Timothy Karr, Free Press
“It is only when you break it [that you can] remodel the pieces into your vision of a new society.”
No, those aren’t the words of a Marvel supervillain. They’re a confession from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie to The Guardian, describing how he and Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon used Facebook data to get inside the minds of millions of people in the United States during the 2016 presidential election.
The scandal at Cambridge Analytica has exposed how our personal information is being collected and sold to third parties, which exploit our “likes” for political gain. And millions of people are asking themselves and leaders in Washington the same question: What are we going to do about Facebook?
First, we need answers. Starting at the top. It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to testify under oath.
Facebook is trying to paper over this crisis with PR spin and vague promises of being “open” to testify, but we’re well beyond that. We need Zuckerberg to provide answers before Congress.
Here are just a few of the questions we would ask:
1. Why didn’t Facebook reveal Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of the personal data of 50 million people when it first learned about it in 2015?
2. Will Facebook support stronger privacy safeguards in the United States — like those about to be implemented across Europe — which restrict the types of personal information collected and require companies to obtain consent from internet users before collecting their data?
3. Why won’t Facebook make it easier for users to opt out of having their data sold to third parties — often without their knowledge and consent?
4. Does Facebook have policies in place to inform users and the general public when third parties collect and use their user data in violation of the company’s standards? Has it informed users of these violations in the past?
5. How does Facebook plan to safeguard against the manipulation, targeting and misuse of user data based on race, nationality and political affiliation?
Numerous members of Congress have called on Zuckerberg to come to Washington. Facebook privacy is a complex issue, one we can only begin to untangle as we ask the necessary hard questions.
In recent days, the rallying cry #DeleteFacebook has become a popular DIY solution, but it ignores the reality that for millions of people, Facebook, Instagram and other big platforms are essential to doing business, connecting with friends and family, and organizing for power.
These platforms have enabled a generation of people of color and others within marginalized communities to transcend systemic bias and barriers — to determine their own destinies.
Depending on Facebook and other platforms shouldn’t mean by definition that you’re subject to surveillance and manipulation.
It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to show up in Washington with complete transparency and begin a long-overdue conversation on how internet platforms treat privacy and profit from our personal information. Urge Zuckerberg to come clean about Facebook’s failure to safeguard our digital lives.