WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from nearly 100 U.S. lawmakers and emerged largely unscathed and considerably richer.
He parried questions of how much control people have over their data on the world’s largest social media network without a major gaffe, while avoiding being cornered into supporting new government regulation.
The hearings that ended on Wednesday revealed no consensus among U.S. lawmakers about what kind of privacy legislation they might want to pursue, if any, and no timeline for action. As he did on Tuesday before a Senate hearing, Zuckerberg refused during a House of Representatives committee hearing to make any promises to support new legislation or change how the social network does business.
“It is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation” of internet firms, Zuckerberg said, but he avoided any specifics.
(Full text of Zuckerberg's prepared testimony: bit.ly/2Hkhr9L)
Although Zuckerberg, 33, had never testified at a congressional hearing before, he succeeded in deflecting questions like a Washington veteran. Forty times the internet mogul told lawmakers he had no answers at hand and would get back to them later. About one in three lawmakers got that response over the two days.
Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell expressed frustration with Zuckerberg’s frequent promises to get back to lawmakers later in writing. “Some things are striking during this conversation,” she said. “As CEO, you didn’t know some key facts.”
On one point, Zuckerberg undercut his consistent message that Facebook users have control of their data. He said he was among the nearly 87 million people whose personal information was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. He gave no further details.
His admission that even the company’s tech-savvy founder was unable to protect his own data underscored the problem Facebook has in persuading skeptical lawmakers that users can easily safeguard their own information and that further legislation governing Facebook is unnecessary.
The Cambridge Analytica issue was the reason Zuckerberg was on Capitol Hill, answering questions about how that company - which has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign among its clients - got hold of data about Facebook users.
“How can consumers have control over their data when Facebook does not have control over the data?” asked Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing.
Zuckerberg said it would take “many months” to complete an audit of other apps that might also have improperly gathered or shared users’ data.
“I do imagine that we will find some apps that were either doing something suspicious or misusing people’s data,” he said.