Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat through hours of questioning this week from a jumbo-sized panel of U.S. senators — including Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal — eager to get their two cents in on how the social media platform handles the personal information of its users.
Well into the joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, Blumenthal took his turn — closing his questioning with a simple statement. “I think legislation is necessary. The rules of the road have to be the result of Congressional action.”
Blumenthal told Zuckerberg that he wants Facebook to cooperate in establishing rules that will prevent personal data from being sold to third parties without the knowledge or consent of Facebook users.
During his questioning, Blumenthal pointed to a terms of service document that academic researcher Dr. Aleksandr Kogan had provided Facebook that spells out that he could, in fact, take the personal information on millions of Facebook users he was provided and sell it — as he did to the political firm Cambridge Analytica.
“Who in Facebook was responsible for seeing those terms of service that put you on notice that that information could be sold?” Blumenthal asked.
“Senator, our App review team would be responsible for that,” Zuckerberg responded.
“Has anyone been fired on that App review team?” Blumenthal asked.
“Senator, not because of this,” Zuckerberg answered.
Blumenthal said the agreement violated a consent decree that Facebook had entered into with the Federal Trade Commission requiring the company to “establish and implement, and thereafter maintain, a comprehensive privacy program.” Zuckerberg said he did not believe it was a violation.
“My reservation about your testimony today is that I don’t see how you can change your business model,” Blumenthal said. “Your business model is to monetize user information to maximize profit over privacy and unless there are specific rules and requirements enforced by an outside agency I have no assurance that these kinds of vague commitments are going to produce action.”
The full exchange is available on Blumenthal’s Facebook page and embedded here:
Facebook is a powerful tool that can connect users with important information (such as today’s Senate hearing) but their private information shouldn’t be exposed when they’re using it.
Watch my questions for Mark Zuckerberg here.
Posted by Senator Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Murphy Grills Pompeo On Mueller Probe
In a testy exchange, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy challenged CIA Director Mike Pompeo to say whether he agreed or not with President Donald Trump, who called an FBI raid on the office and home of his private attorney Michael Cohen an attack on America.
The question came late in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Pompeo, whom Trump has nominated to become the next secretary of state and followed up on an earlier attempt for an answer by Delaware Democrat Chris Coons.
“Senator Coons asked you in an earlier round whether you agreed with the president’s characterization of the Mueller investigation as an attack on America, an attack on all that we stand for,” Murphy asked. “I don’t understand why your participation in some of the elements of that investigation would render you unable to tell us that you don’t believe the investigation is an attack on America or an attack on all we stand for.”
Pompeo responded: “These are complex legal issues the special council is involved in. I’ve done my best as CIA director to separate each and every element of it. There is just a minefield Senator Murphy and I want to be on the far side of the line making sure I don’t create challenges for the special counsel.”
Murphy wasn’t convinced.
“By refusing to condemn attacks on the special counsel — I mean really over the line attacks that aren’t shared by Republicans here in Congress — you are frustrating the work of the special counsel by associating yourself with some very poisonous political attacks,” Murphy said.
Murphy also questioned Pompeo over whether he believes Trump has the authority to launch a missile strike against Syria. Murphy says that unless there is a direct attack or an imminent threat to the United States, Trump would need Congressional approval.
Courtney Recognizes Navy’s 150-Year History In New London
Representative Joe Courtney offered up some hometown pride on the House floor this week to announce the 150th anniversary of Naval Submarine Base New London.
“On this date in 1868, the state of Connecticut and the city of New London conveyed a deed of gift to the U.S. Navy that was only 5,200 feet long and 700 feet wide. Over time, that small tract of land along the Thames River has grown in size and stature as it became the home to the ‘first and finest’ submarine base,” Courtney said.
Naval Submarine Base New London, which is now home to some 10,000 sailors, has had “a glorious and distinguished career,” he said.
DeLauro Opposes Trump’s Welfare Order
Representative Rosa DeLauro issued a statement this week blasting President Donald Trump for signing an executive order that she says will make it more difficult for people to access healthcare, nutrition and housing programs offered to low-income families.
“Under the guise of ‘reviewing welfare programs,’ the Trump Administration is once again targeting America’s most vulnerable people,” she said.
The executive order, among other things, calls for a strengthened work requirement for able-bodied adults, building off the requirement established in the 1996 bipartisan welfare reform that requires able-bodied adults on food stamps to work, train or volunteer for at least 20 hours per week. It would apply to Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and other federal safety net programs.
“President Trump and Congressional Republicans are searching for a solution to a problem that does not exist — going out of their way to humiliate and stigmatize recipients of federal programs,” DeLauro said. “The American people would be far better served if the President and Congressional Republicans joined Democrats, who are focused on economic policies that create jobs and raise wages, instead of blaming people for needing a helping hand.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal will visit Hill Regional Career High School in New Haven at 9 a.m. to see the school’s Youth Mental Health First Aid training program in action.
He will be at Platt High School in Meriden at noon for a town hall discussion with students on school safety, gun violence and youth priorities.