catwalker via shutterstock
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in March 2015. (catwalker via shutterstock)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be on Capitol Hill next week to face members of Congress — including Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal — upset with how the social media giant has handled the personal data of its users.

The Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees are holding a joint hearing on Tuesday afternoon with Zuckerberg as its sole witness. He’ll appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

Blumenthal sits on both the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees. He has been on a Twitter tear of late, laying into Facebook over reports that the identities and information of most of its 2 billion users worldwide could possibly have been obtained by “malicious actors” using the company’s search tools, according to the Washington Post.

“Facebook’s betrayal of privacy rights is almost certainly a gross violation of its FTC consent decree, requiring immediate and vigorous action. FTC must show wronged consumers its mettle and seek meaningful monetary damages and other remedies,” Blumenthal tweeted in sharing a link to the Washington Post article.

In 2011, Facebook entered into a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in response to previous controversies over its handling of user data. FTC required the company to maintain a comprehensive privacy policy and ask permission before sharing user data in new ways. Violating the terms could result in many millions of dollars of fines, according to the Post.

Facebook said in a blog post Wednesday, “Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped.”

As well, Facebook has acknowledged that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy hired by President Trump and other Republicans, had improperly gathered detailed Facebook information on 87 million people, of whom 71 million were Americans, according to CNN.

ctnewsjunkie file photo
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

Blumenthal issued a statement after the Senate hearing was announced saying he was glad Zuckerberg agreed “to face the music.”

“His company has shamelessly shredded the privacy rights of its users,” Blumenthal said. “Just today, Facebook admitted that the personal data of most of its 2 billion users had been compromised by ‘malicious actors’ over the last several years. This hearing is a good first step toward instituting some vitally necessary rules of the road for Big Tech.”

Blumenthal is the ranking Democrat of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security.

DeLauro, Himes Spring Break in Afghanistan

Jim Himes
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes’ tweet from Afghanistan with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Jim Himes)

During a two-week Congressional recess, Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Jim Himes visited with Connecticut troops in Afghanistan as part of a congressionally sponsored trip that also included stops in Israel and Jordan.

“Our men and women in the military — including the service members I met from Connecticut — continue to make extraordinary sacrifices for our nation. It was an honor to spend time with them during my trip to the region. We cannot thank our troops enough for their selfless service,” DeLauro said in a statement.

Himes posted a picture on Twitter last Saturday with himself and DeLauro posing next to a military helicopter that transported them around Afghanistan.

“There’s only one way to travel in Afghanistan with @rosadelauro and that’s by Connecticut-made @Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk. World-beating technology. Extraordinary crews,” Himes tweeted.

Himes said they visited Connecticut soldiers at Forward Operating Base Lightning in Paktia, Afghanistan. DeLauro said they also received briefings from General John Nicholson, Jr., and Brigadier General David Hamilton on the readiness of armed forces, security issues in the region, and the ongoing mission of training and advising Afghan security forces.

They also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to discuss continuing issues regarding free and fair elections, reducing corruption, and empowering women in government and civil society, she said.

Earlier in the week, the delegation met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and King Abdullah II of Jordan. They also visited Dahiet Al Ameer School in Amman, Jordan, which educates children who are refugees from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi led the delegation trip which included eight other House Democrats.

Murphy Honors Waterbury’s Heroic Naval Chaplain

Although Congress was not in session this week, Senator Chris Murphy on Thursday was able to place a statement in the Congressional Record honoring what would have been the 110th birthday of Father Thomas M. Conway.

Conway, a chaplain during World War II, sacrificed his life to care for fellow sailors after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945.

“His heroism gave comfort to the dying and helped save the lives of the 321 sailors who were rescued from the sea,” wrote Murphy. “The legacy of Father Conway continues to inspire his family, fellow sailors, and the people of Connecticut.”

Here’s the full statement:

Mr. President, today I wish to honor the life and legacy of a World War II hero: LT Rev. Thomas M. Conway, born April 5, 1908, in Waterbury, CT. Father Conway, who was born 110 years ago next month, was an American hero who, after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35), went from lifeboat to lifeboat in shark-infested waters to care for his fellow sailors in a manner far above the call of duty.

The courage of the brave men who served on the USS Indianapolis, who delivered critical parts to the first atomic bomb used in combat, helped bring about the end of World War II. After their mission was complete, they were intercepted on their way to join with the rest of the Pacific fleet for the invasion of mainland Japan. Two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck the Indianapolis on July 30, 1945, sinking the battleship and immediately killing 300 of the 1,196 sailors aboard. The remaining 900 sailors were left to fend for their lives in the shark-infested Pacific, spending 3 days with few lifeboats or supplies and no way to notify the Navy of their peril.

Father Conway, as chaplain, disregarded his own safety by swimming back and forth among the men, administering aid, helping to gather those who had drifted from the mass of survivors, and continuing to minister and organize group prayers. His heroism gave comfort to the dying and helped save the lives of the 321 sailors who were rescued from the sea. Father Conway’s acts of bravery took a physical toll, and he succumbed to the elements shortly before rescuers arrived. As one surviving sailor said of Father Conway, “He was the most visible person keeping the men together, giving them hope and sacrificing himself to keep his fellow sailors united, calm, and alert.”

The legacy of Father Conway continues to inspire his family, fellow sailors, and the people of Connecticut. That is why next month, in recognition of his birthday, we pause to reflect upon and celebrate his courageous actions. His selflessness and bravery are the epitome of an American hero.