Zuckerberg and Franken on Privacy

  • Last week, former US senator Al Franken’s comments at the Privacy Xchange Forum in Lisbon, Portugal included: “For years, advocates have raised concerns about how today’s dominant platforms have misused our private misinformation and engaged in anticompetitive behavior, and yet for years American lawmakers and regulators have failed to act
  • The 2016 election can be the reckoning we never knew we needed. It can be the moment when lawmakers in the United States finally address the anxiety that has been building for the past decade about our online privacy and the tech giants’ unmatched power
  • I like social media. I like technology. It’s amazing, But I believe these companies also have a responsibility to help protect the people who use their products, and I believe that policy makers have a responsibility to hold those companies accountable when they fall short. 2016 was a massive failure on both counts … I’m not just here to cast blame … If we do not act to address these problems, all this will happen again. Maybe at the hands of the Russians, maybe at the hands of a private company like Cambridge Analytica, or maybe at the hands of other bad actors.”


  • Also, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments about privacy at the firm’s developer conference included:  "On the one hand the responsibilities around keeping people safe—the election integrity, fake news, data privacy and all those issues are just really key. And on the other hand, we also have a responsibility to our community to keep building the experiences that people expect from us. Part of the challenge of where we are is making sure that we take both seriously. F8 is going to be a balance of those two points ..
  • "I think this is about a three-year transition to really build up the teams [to address harmful content], because you can't just hire thirty thousand people overnight to go do something … You have to make sure that they're executing well and bring in the leadership and train them. And building up AI tools—that's not something that you could just snap your fingers on either."


  • Regarding Franken’s comments; Given that he was a senior member of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, his comments clearly address the  need for more action (although some people may discount his views because of sexual misconduct concerns).
  • Regarding Zuckerberg’s comments;  1) Resources to address harmful content will continually compete with the needs of new projects such as the firm's recently announced dating services and 2) while AI may be part of the solution to address  harmful content, it is likely that human judgement will (or at least should) have a significant roll in the process. 
  • More broadly; The issues of privacy, technology and public policy expand beyond the Facebook platform - addressing the challenges will require more engagement by users, service providers and policy makers.
Paul Dravis