One hundred cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. Advocacy group Avaaz is calling attention to what the groups says are hundreds of millions of fake accounts still spreading disinformation on Facebook. 
One hundred cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. Advocacy group Avaaz is calling attention to what the groups says are hundreds of millions of fake accounts still spreading disinformation on Facebook.  - 

This post was last updated on May 9 at 2:44 p.m. CT.

Congress finally got its chance to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg back in April.

The hearings in both the Senate and the House were mainly focused on data collected by Facebook and the apps that live on its platforms, as well as how that data can be used. While lawmakers had a lot of questions, Zuckerberg did not always have an answer ready. Instead, he told lawmakers that his team would “follow up.” This is actually a pretty common practice at hearings for executives, but since last month's testimony, we've contacted the spokespeople of the Congress members who were promised a follow up. Based on our reporting, Facebook has yet to directly and formally respond to any of these questions.

However, the company has informally released responses on social media to questions #20 and #23, which you can find below. It's also released some general posts addressing how the company gets data on people from other websites and what information Facebook advertisers know about you

According to a statement from Facebook, it will respond to Congress directly, and legislators actually have an opportunity to submit even more questions: “The official record of the hearings will be open for a period of time for legislators to submit additional questions. For Energy and Commerce it’s 10 days and for the joint Senate hearing it’ll be 14 days, per what each of the chairmen announced at the conclusion of each hearing. The committees will then share those questions with us and give us a deadline to respond. And I suspect at some point the committees will make our replies public.”

We'll continue to stay in touch with Facebook and the offices of each Congress member, but until then, check out all the questions from the testimony that have gone unanswered. We looked for any time Zuckerberg said the words “follow up,” “get back to,” or “my team.” (You can read the transcripts of both hearings on The Washington Post site: Senate hearingHouse hearing.)  

 1. Did Facebook employees work with Cambridge Analytica on Trump’s campaign?

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL, D-WASH.: During the 2016 campaign, Cambridge Analytica worked with the Trump campaign to refine tactics. And were Facebook employees involved in that?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I don't know that our employees were involved with Cambridge Analytica. Although I know that we did help out the Trump campaign overall in sales support in the same way that we do with other companies.

CANTWELL: So they may have been involved and all working together during that time period? Maybe that's something your investigation will find out.

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, my — I can certainly have my team get back to you on any specifics there that I don't know, sitting here today.

2. Does Facebook use cookies to track Facebook’s users between sessions?

SEN. ROGER WICKER, R-MISS.: There have been reports that Facebook can track a user's Internet browsing activity, even after that user has logged off of the Facebook platform. Can you confirm whether or not this is true?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator — I — I want to make sure I get this accurate, so it would probably be better to have my team follow up afterwards.

WICKER: You don't know?

ZUCKERBERG: I know that the — people use cookies on the Internet, and that you can probably correlate activity between — between sessions. We do that for a number of reasons, including security, and including measuring ads to make sure that the ad experiences are the most effective, which, of course, people can opt out of. But I want to make sure that I'm precise in my answer, so let me ...

WICKER: When — well, when you get ...

ZUCKERBERG: ... follow up with you on that.

WICKER: ... when you get back to me, sir, would you also let us know how Facebook's — discloses to its users that engaging in this type of tracking gives us that result?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes.

3. Where are those pesky Russians hiding?

SEN. PATRICK J. LEAHY, D-VT.: Six months ago, your general counsel promised us that you were taking steps to prevent Facebook preserving what I would call an unwitting co-conspirator in Russian interference. But these — these unverified, divisive pages are on Facebook today. They look a lot like the anonymous groups that Russian agents used to spread propaganda during the 2016 election. Are you able to confirm whether they're Russian-created groups? Yes or no?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, are you asking about those specifically?

LEAHY: Yes.

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, last week, we actually announced a major change to our ads and pages policies: that we will be identifying the identity of every single advertiser ...

LEAHY: I'm asking about specific ones. Do you know whether they are?

ZUCKERBERG: I am not familiar with those pieces of content specifically.

LEAHY: But, if you decided this policy a week ago, you'd be able to verify them?

ZUCKERBERG: We are working on that now. What we're doing is we're going to verify the identity of any advertiser who's running a political or issue-related ad — this is basically what the Honest Ads Act is proposing, and we're following that. And we're also going to do that for pages. So ...

LEAHY: But you can't answer on these?

ZUCKERBERG: I — I'm not familiar with those specific cases.

LEAHY: Well, will you — will you find out the answer and get back to me?

ZUCKERBERG: I'll have my team get back to you.

4. If I delete my account, how long does Facebook keep my data?

SEN. DEAN HELLER, R-NEV.: How long do you keep a user's data, once they — after — after they've left? If they — if they choose to delete their account, how long do you keep their data?

ZUCKERBERG: I don't know the answer to that off the top of my head. I know we try to delete it as quickly as is reasonable. We have a lot of complex systems, and it work — takes awhile to work through all that.

But I think we try to move as quickly as possible, and I can follow up or have my team follow up ...

HELLER: Yeah.

ZUCKERBERG: ... to get you the — the data on that.

Does Facebook delete the backups as well?

SEN. CORY GARDNER, R-COLO.: However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time. How long is that?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I don't know, sitting here, what our current systems are on that. But the intent is to get all the content out of the system as quickly as possible.

GARDNER: And does that mean your user data as well? It talks about I.P. content, is that the same thing as your user data; it can sit in backup copies?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I think that that is probably right. I — I don't — I'm not sitting here today having full knowledge of — of our current state of the systems around wiping all of the data out of backups. So I can follow up with you on that afterwards, but what I can tell you ...

GARDNER: But all backups get wiped?

ZUCKERBERG: That is certainly the way it's — it — it's supposed to work.

GARDNER: Has there ever been a failure of that?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I — I don't know. But this is — if we tell people that we're going to delete their data then we need to do that.

5. What apps did Facebook ban?

ZUCKERBERG to SEN. CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, R-IOWA, CHAIRMAN: As for past activity, I don't have all the examples of apps that we've banned here, but if you would like, I can have my team follow up with you after this.

6. What about audits?

GRASSLEY: Have you ever required an audit to ensure the deletion of improperly transferred data? And, if so, how many times?

ZUCKERBERG: Mr. Chairman, yes we have. I don't have the exact figure on how many times we have. […] Mr. Chairman, I will have my team follow up with you on what information we have.

7. How many bots has Facebook taken down?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF., RANKING MEMBER: How many accounts of this type [bots that spread disinformation] have you taken down?

ZUCKERBERG: Across — in the Internet Research Agency specifically, the ones that we've pegged back to the IRA, we can identify the 470 in the American elections in the 270 that we specifically went after in Russia last week.

There were many others that our systems catch, which are more difficult to attribute specifically to Russian intelligence, but the number would be in the tens of thousands of fake accounts that we remove. And I'm happy to have my team follow up with you on more information, if that would be helpful.

8. What regulations would Facebook collaborate with Congress on?

SEN. LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, R-S.C.: So would you work with us in terms of what regulations you think are necessary in your industry?

ZUCKERBERG: Absolutely.

GRAHAM: Okay. Would you submit to us some proposed regulations?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. And I'll have my team follow up with you so, that way, we can have this discussion across the different categories where I think that this discussion needs to happen.

GRAHAM: Look forward to it.

***

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-MINN.: Would you support a rule that would require you to notify your users of a breach within 72 hours?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, that makes sense to me. And I think we should have our team follow up with — with yours to — to discuss the details around that more.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL, D-MICH.: Can you commit to get the committee, the European Union is asking for 72 hours on transparency? Do you think we could get that back in committee in 72 hours?

ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I will talk to my team and we will follow up.

REP. GENE GREEN, D-TEXAS: [European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation] (GDPR) also gives users the right to object to the processing of their personal data for marketing purposes, which, according to Facebook's website, includes custom micro-target audiences for advertising.

Will the same right be object — to object be available to Facebook users in the United States? And how will that be implemented?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, I'm not sure how we're going to implement that yet. Let me follow up with you on that.

REP. LEONARD LANCE, R-N.J.: Congresswoman Blackburn has mentioned her legislation. I'm a co-sponsor of the browser legislation. I commend it to your attention, to the attention of your company. It is for the entire ecosystem. It is for ISPs and edge providers. It is not just for one or the other. It is an opt-in system, similar to the system that exists in your — might I respectfully request of you, Mr. Zuckerberg, that you and your company review the browser legislation? And I would like your support for that legislation after your review of it.

ZUCKERBERG: We will review it and get back to you.

9. Does Facebook use cross-device tracking?

SEN. ROY BLUNT, R-MO.: Do you collect user data through cross-device tracking?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I believe we do link people's accounts between devices in order to make sure that their Facebook and Instagram and their other experiences can be synced between their devices.

BLUNT: And that would also include offline data, data that's tracking that's not necessarily linked to Facebook, but linked to one — some device they went through Facebook on, is that right?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I want to make sure we get this right. So I want to have my team follow up with you on that afterwards.

BLUNT: Well, now, that doesn't seem that complicated to me. Now, you — you understand this better than I do, but maybe — maybe you can explain to me why that's that — why that's complicated.

Do you track devices that an individual who uses Facebook has that is connected to the device that they use for their Facebook connection, but not necessarily connected to Facebook?

ZUCKERBERG: I'm not — I'm not sure of the answer to that question.

BLUNT: Really?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. There — there may be some data that is necessary to provide the service that we do. But I don't — I don't have that on — sitting here today. So that's something that I would want to follow up on.

10. How will the Bug Bounty program fit into this?

SEN. JERRY MORAN, R-KAN.: How do you — how do you see that the Bug Bounty program that you are — have announced will deal with the sharing of information not permissible, as compared to just unauthorized access to data?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I'm not — I'm not too sure I — I understand this enough to — to speak to — to that specific point, and I can have my team follow up with you on the details of that.

11. Where do the people affected live?

SEN. DEAN HELLER, R-NEV.: Can you tell me how many Nevadans were among the 87 million that received this notification [that their data was shared with Cambridge Analytica without their consent]?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I don't have this broken out by state right now. But I can have my team follow up with you to get you the information.

KLOBUCHAR: Now on the subject of Cambridge Analytica, were these people, the 87 million people, users, concentrated in certain states? Are you able to figure out where they're from?

ZUCKERBERG: I do not have that information with me, but we can follow up with your — your office.

12. Who else has the data that Cambridge Analytica has?

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN, D-WIS.: Okay. Do you know whether Aleksandr Kogan sold any of the data he collected with anyone other than Cambridge Analytica?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, yes, we do. He sold it to a couple of other firms.

BALDWIN: Can you identify them?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes, there's one called Eunoia, and there may have been a couple of others as well. And I can follow up with ...

BALDWIN: Can you furnish that to me after?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY, D-ILL.: I want to ask you -- yesterday -- following up on your response to Senator Baldwin's question, you said yesterday that Kogan also sold data to other firms. You named Eunoia Technologies.

How many are there total? And what are their names? Can we get that? And how many are total -- are there total?

ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, we can follow up with you to make sure you get all that information.

13. What are you doing about Russian interference?

BALDWIN: Okay. I want to switch to my home state of Wisconsin.

According to press reports, my home state of Wisconsin was a major target of Russian-bought ads on Facebook in the 2016 election. These divisive ads, touching on a number of very polarizing issues, were designed to interfere with our election. We've also learned that Russian actors using another platform, Twitter, similarly targeted Wisconsin with divisive content aimed at sowing division and dissent, including in the wake of a police-involved shooting in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood in August of 2016.

Now I find some encouragement in the steps you've outlined today to provide greater transparency regarding political ads. I do want to get further information on how you can be confident that you have excluded entities based outside of the United States.

ZUCKERBERG: We'll follow up on that.

REP. ELIOT L. ENGEL, D-N.Y.: Does Facebook have the ability to detect when a foreign entity is attempting to buy a political ad? And is that process automated? Do you have procedures in place to inform key government players when a foreign entity is attempting to buy a political ad or when it might be taking other steps to interfere in an election?

ZUCKERBERG:  [...] So we're doing a number of things that — that I'm — that I'm happy to talk about, or follow up with afterward, around deploying new A.I. tools that can proactively catch fake accounts that Russia or others might create to spread misinformation.

14. How the heck does Messenger for kids work?

WICKER: You can opt in or out of [Messenger app]?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. It is opt-in.

WICKER: It is easy to opt out?

ZUCKERBERG: It is opt-in. You — you have to affirmatively say that you want to sync that information before we get access to it.

WICKER: Unless you — unless you opt in, you don't collect that call and text history?

ZUCKERBERG: That is correct.

WICKER: And is that true for — is this practice done at all with minors, or do you make an exception there for persons aged 13 to 17?

ZUCKERBERG: I do not know. We can follow up with that.

15. Does Aleksandr Kogan, who collected the data at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, still have an account on Facebook?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, D-R.I.: Your testimony says that Aleksandr Kogan's app has been banned. Has he also been banned?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes, my understanding is he has.

WHITEHOUSE: So if he were to open up another account under a name and you were able to find out that would be taken — that would be closed down?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I believe we — we are preventing him from building any more apps.

WHITEHOUSE: Does he have a Facebook account still?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I believe the answer to that is no, but I can follow up with you afterwards.

16. Can — and will — Facebook change the default settings to minimize potential for data collection?

REP. FRANK PALLONE JR., D-N.J.: But I'd like you to answer yes or no, if you could. Will you make the commitment to change all the user — to changing all the user default settings to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the collection and use of users' data?

That's — I don't think that's hard for you to say yes to, unless I'm missing something.

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, this is a complex issue that I think is — deserves more than a one-word answer.

PALLONE: Well, again, that's disappointing to me, because I think you should make that commitment. And maybe what we could do is follow up with you on this, if possible — if that's okay. We can do that follow-up?

17. What data is being sold?

REP. STEVE SCALISE, R-LA.: So my question would be, is that data that is mined for security purposes also used to sell as part of the business model?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, I believe that those are — are — that we collect different data for those. But I can follow up on the details of — of that.

SCALISE: All right. If you could follow up, I would appreciate that.

18. Is Facebook censoring specific groups?

SCALISE: And you mentioned the Diamond and Silk example, where there — you — you, I think, described it as a mistake. Were the people who made that mistake held accountable in any way?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, let me follow up with you on that. That situation developed while I was here, preparing to testify, so I'm not…

SCALISE: Okay.

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERBERG: ... details on it.

REP. FRED UPTON, R-MICH.: And, to follow up a question with — that Mr. Barton asked about Silk and Diamond — I don't know whether you know about this particular case — I have a former state rep who's running for state senate. He's the former Michigan Lottery commissioner, so he's a guy of — of fairly good political prominence.

He is a — he announced for state senate just in the last week, and he had what I thought was a rather positive announcement. It's — and I'll read to you precisely what it was.

“I'm proud to announce my candidacy for state senate. Lansing needs conservative west Michigan values, and, as our next state senator, I will work to strengthen our economy, limit government, lower our auto insurance rates, balance the budget, stop sanctuary cities, pay down government debt, be a pro-life, pro-2nd-Amendment lawmaker.”

And it was rejected. And the response from you all was it wasn't approved because it doesn't follow our advertising policies. We don't allow ads that contain shocking, disrespectful or sensational content, including ads that depict violence or threats of violence. I'm not sure where the threat was, based on what he tried to post.

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, I'm not sure either. I'm not familiar with that specific case. It's quite possible that we made a mistake, and we'll follow up afterward to — on that.

19. What is Facebook doing to make sure it’s not discriminating against content it doesn’t like?

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS, R-WASH.: In November, FCC Chairman Pai even said that edge providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don't like. This is obviously a serious allegation.

How would you respond to such an allegation? And what is Facebook doing to ensure that its users are being treated fairly and objectively by content reviewers?

ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, the principle that we're a platform for all ideas is something that I care very deeply about. I'm worried about bias, and we take a number of steps to make sure that none of the changes that we make are targeted at -- in any kind of biased way.

And I'd be happy to follow up with you and go into more detail on that, because I agree that this is a serious issue.

20. What’s Facebook’s reach beyond its website?

DINGELL: So I want to ask you, how many Facebook like buttons are there on non-Facebook web pages?

ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I don't know the answer to that off the top my head, but we'll get back to you.

DINGELL: Is the number over hundred million?

ZUCKERBERG: I believe we've served the like button on pages more than that, but I don't know the number of pages that have the like button on actively.

DINGELL: How many share buttons are there on non-Facebook web pages?

ZUCKERBERG: I don't know the answer to that exactly off the top my head either, but that's something that we can follow up with you on.

DINGELL: And do we think that's over 100 million likely? How many chunks of Facebook pixel code are there on non-Facebook webpage?

ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, you're asking some specific stats that I don't know off the top of my head, but we can follow up with you and get back to you on all of these.

Facebook's response:

21. Should people be able to correct or delete inaccurate personal data that companies have about them?

REP. PETER WELCH, D-VT.: Okay. And do you believe that consumers should be able to correct or delete inaccurate personal data that companies have obtained?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, that one might be more interesting to debate, because...

WELCH: Well, then, let's getyou get back to us with specifics on that. I think they do have that right.

22. Is Facebook sharing info with Russian intelligence companies?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, R-ILL.: If you're giving Russian intelligence service agencies, potentially, even on a valid request, access to global data that's not in Russia, is that kind of a disadvantage to us and an advantage to them?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, let me be more precise in my testimony.

KINZINGER: Sure. Yeah, please.

ZUCKERBERG: I have no specific knowledge of any data that we've ever given to Russia. In general, we'll work with valid law enforcement requests in different countries, and we can get back to you on what that might mean with Russia, specifically. But I have no knowledge, sitting here, of any time that we would have given them information.

23. How much information does Facebook have on non-Facebook users?

REP. BEN RAY LUJAN, D-N.M.: On average, how many data points does Facebook have on each Facebook user?

ZUCKERBERG: I do not know off the top of my head.

LUJAN: So the average for non-Facebook platforms is 1,500. It's been reported that Facebook has as many as 29,000 data points for an average Facebook user. You know how many points of data that Facebook has on the average non-Facebook-user?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, I do not off the top of my head, but I can have our team get back to you afterwards.

Facebook's response: The company hasn't replied with specific information about how many data points it has on Facebook users and non-users alike. But on Twitter, the company sent Lujan a Facebook post detailing its plans to build a tool that will allow Facebook users the ability to clear their browsing history on Facebook and look at information connected to the apps and websites they've interacted with. 

 

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