Elder Patriot – Except for a precious few House and Senate interrogators, the Congressional hearings on Facebook’s wrongdoing was a sickening display of our fawning elected representatives fellating a man-child who couldn’t answer the most basic questions about the company he contends was born in his dorm room.
Chris Collins (R-NY) took the award for most obsequious:
Collins may have provided the most nauseating suck-up but, considering the crimes that Zuckerberg’s company is guilty of, the lack of serious grilling was a severe dereliction of duty by those Congresspersons charged with protecting the American people.
“I’ll have to check with my team and get back to you on that, Congressman” was the answer given numerous times to each questioner by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. We are supposed to believe that he doesn’t know the answer to literally hundreds of key questions about the company he founded and runs?
How is it possible that this boy-genius can figure out how to gather every piece of private information on every American and not have developed a way to protect it? That simply defies logic, especially in light of the fact that all of that personal information is his company’s only inventory. It is what gives his company value.
What company doesn’t put locks, even guards, on its warehouse?
Perhaps there’s a reason the vast majority of the Congressional representatives prostrated themselves in order to give “Zuck” a pass. Perhaps they were told to stand down, that they were coming too close to hitting a nerve.
Consider this possibility. DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency – began a project named LifeLog to compile a massive electronic database of every activity and relationship a person engages in. This was to include credit card purchases, web sites visited, the content of telephone calls and emails sent and received, scans of faxes and postal mail sent and received, instant messages sent and received, books and magazines read, television and radio selections, physical location recorded via wearable GPS sensors, biomedical data captured through wearable sensors, etc. The high level goal of this data logging was to identify “preferences, plans, goals, and other markers of intentionality.”
Sound like any company you know?
The DARPA program was canceled in 2004 following the outcry from civil libertarians over privacy rights.
Coincidentally, a boy genius, two years removed from high school, sitting in his dorm room at Harvard – precisely at the same time the plug is pulled on LifeLog – conceived this incredibly sophisticated data collection network and the way to monetize it.
And now he can’t answer the most fundamental questions about his company.
There’s also this bit of history to consider: In 2013 Edward Snowden, who had been privy to classified information while working at the NSA, risked imprisonment to tell Americans that the goals of LifeLog had been accomplished under a different name.
His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.
What better way can you think of to compile personal information than by convincing people to turn it over for free? And the almost four-dozen page Terms of Service agreement makes it a certainty that no one will read the fine print. For those that attempt to read it they will find it virtually indecipherable, even for attorneys. Congress at least established that over the past two days.
Protecting Facebook comes with national security implications. Zuckerberg admitted that selling the PI of the users that comprise his immense database is how his company makes money. What is the value to Facebook of gaining entry to China’s 1.3 billion people, as an example?
Are we to trust that Zuckerberg, whose company stood aside while the Obama campaign was “sucking out the whole social graph,” that he can now be trusted not to use Facebook’s immense power to influence the outcome of elections on orders from China in order to gain entry to their market?
To those in the know, the hearings this week had two purposes. They were intended to rehabilitate Zuckerberg in the public’s eye and to demonize Cambridge Analytica and Robert and Rebekah Mercer who were and remain supporters of Donald Trump.
It is also worth remembering that the Mercers originally supported Ted Cruz until he dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination.
Cambridge Analytica barely leveled the playing field with the Democrats who had been given full access to that entire PI map by Facebook only four years before. Now the effort is to take that level field away from the Republicans.
All of this goes a long way to explaining why Ted Cruz’s interrogation of Zuckerberg was the most revealing five minutes of the past two days by far and raises the question why Zuckerberg’s non answer was accepted by virtually everyone who followed Cruz – which was just about everyone.
Senator Cruz: “Does Facebook consider itself to be a neutral public forum? … Are you a First Amendment speaker expressing your views or are you a neutral public forum allowing everyone to speak?”
After stammering and avoidance by Zuck, Cruz clarified his question in a way that Zuck couldn’t avoid the meaning of:
Senator Cruz: “The predicate for section 230 immunity under the CDA (Communications Decency Act) is that you’re a neutral public forum. Do you consider yourself a neutral public forum or are you engaged in political speech?”
Zuckerberg then sounded like a lost boy with this answer:
Zuck: “I’m not that familiar with the specific legal language of the law that you speak to…”
WAT? That law is the governing tenet by which his company must adhere to just as the twenty-one-year old drinking age governs the service of alcohol for bar owners.
For the most part, Congress disgraced itself this week. But then, that was their goal from the beginning.