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April 13, 2018

Zuckerberg’s auditions are over, the problem remains : Facebook

The hearing of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, by the Senate and then the House of Representatives has demonstrated a willingness of the US legislature to limit the power of the giant social networks. But how to proceed?

Cambridge Analytica, the alleged interference of Russia in the US presidential election, the political neutrality of Facebook or the proliferation of “fake news”: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the giant social networks, had the opportunity to s’ express on each of these points. His audition before both houses of the US Congress lasted ten hours, over two days, on April 10 and 11.

The result? ” Mark Zuckerberg survives the timid questions of Congress, ” noted the US television channel CNN. His audition “again proved that the Congress does not understand the Internet,” said the specialized site Fast Company. An excuse for excuses already heard and vague promises to do better have sufficed for the Facebook CEO to navigate the not-so-troubled waters of US elected officials.

It prevents. A consensus seems to have emerged both in the Senate and the House of Representatives to try to limit the power of the Internet juggernaut to better protect the personal data of users of the social network. How do elected officials intend to achieve this? This is the main question that remains after the marathon of these auditions.

 

Let Facebook clean. Self-regulation is the solution of the status quo. Mark Zuckerberg is not against it. He repeatedly stated that he was aware that his responsibility exceeded that set by the law and that he was ready to “improve” the protection of users’ privacy without having to be compelled to do so by the legislator.

Rare few have abounded in this direction. Michigan Rep. Fred Upton assured that “more regulation is likely to weigh heavily on start-ups because the complexity of the laws is often beneficial to large groups with the [financial, human] resources to make it happen.” conform to it “.

But on the whole, the time is no longer for self-regulation for the majority of senators or representatives. The Democrat of Illinois, Jan Schakowsky, has made the most blatant illustration of it by looking back on 15 years of Facebook’s apology following repeated scandals. “It seems to me that these reminders prove that self-regulation simply does not work,” she concluded.

Force is at the law. Elected representatives who favor self-regulation are divided into two schools. Those who advocate an “American-style” approach, with a legal framework that is as restrictive as possible and those who look to the European example.

Several Senators and members of the House of Representatives have drafted legislation on very specific points, particularly on data protection or the obligation for platforms to request the authorization of users before any marketing of personal data, which all have in common to be “short, simple to understand, and easy to implement,” according to their authors.

Very far from the European General Regulations on Data Protection (GDPR) which is intended as a comprehensive set of rules to protect the personal information of European Internet users. One of the guidelines of this text, which will come into force on May 25 in Europe, is to give users more control over the digital destiny of their data (to always have access to them, to know who uses them, etc.). ). US officials, like the Texas Democrat Gene Green, would like Facebook to import the same rules into the United States. In a rhetorical spin, Mark Zuckerberg pledged to apply to everyone the changes that Facebook would bring to Europe after the entry into force of the RGPD. But he was careful not to say whether he intended to apply all the rules of this device.

 

Pay for Facebook. Over-exploitation of personal data is at the heart of Facebook’s business model, based on advertising. One solution would be to remove the advertisement and replace it with a paid template.

This is the proposal of Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and pioneer of virtual reality. For him, it is “no longer acceptable that the only way for two Internet users to communicate is to go through services [Facebook, Twitter etc.] that exist only because a third person [the advertiser] pays to be able to influence the behavior of others “. He is not alone in considering this possibility. Sheryl Sandberg, influential number 2 of Facebook, has herself implied that a paid version of the social network without advertising could be an option.

In front of the Senate, Mark Zuckerberg assured that “there would always be a free version of Facebook”. This would not prevent him from creating a paying one with contours still to delimit. But he also stressed that this solution could not be applied everywhere, especially in the poorest countries where to introduce a paying model would de facto deprive the population of Facebook. One solution would then be to charge everyone according to their interest in the eyes of advertisers. A fashion victim should pay a much higher monthly fee than an Eritrean teenager. But for that, it would first be that Facebook put a price on each of its two billion users.

 

Facebook, puzzle way. The last option evoked by elected officials: make Facebook suffer the fate of Microsoft in the late 1990s. “Are you a monopoly  ?”, Was one of the most prominent issues of the hearing before the Senate.

What Mark Zuckerberg has answered in the negative, although only the Competition Authority is able to decide. The goal would be to reduce the hold that the Facebook empire has on personal data by forcing it to separate from Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger.

But beyond this shocking question that finally made Mark Zuckerberg smile, no other American elected no longer mentioned the possibility of attacking the domination of Facebook in the world of the social web.

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