During yesterday's joint hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, CEO Mark Zuckerberg fully denied the idea from Senator Gary Peters.
Peters asked him to answer "yes or no" whether Facebook used audio from personal devices to fill out its ad data, and Zuckerberg said no. He explained that users can upload videos with audio in them, but not the kind of background spying that you've probably heard people talk about.
Peters: "I have heard constituents say Facebook is mining audio from their mobile devices for the purpose of ad targeting. This speaks to the lack of trust we are seeing. I understand there are technical and logistical issues for that to happen. For the record, I hear it all the time, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users?"
Zuckerberg: "We do not. Senator, Let me be clear on this. You are talking about the conspiracy theory passed around that we listen to what is going on on your microphone and use that. We do not do that. We do allow people to take videos on their device and share those. Videos also have audio. We do, while you are taking a video, record that and use that to make the service better by making sure that you have audio. That is pretty clear."
However, those observing the event considered Zuckerburg’s appearance before the Senate committee a staged farce .
As the Guardian said “ It failed. It was designed to fail. It was a show designed to get Zuckerberg off the hook after only a few hours in Washington DC. It was a show that gave the pretence of a hearing without a real hearing. It was designed to deflect and confuse.”
Senators were given less than five minutes for questions and no time for follow-ups. Bill Gates’ hearing on Microsoft meant he was grilled for several days.
Senators asked if Zuckerberg would support legislation that would regulate Facebook. Odd thing to do for a CEO who has just been caught out exposing at least 87 million people’s data, enabled foreign propaganda, and perpetuated discrimination. Senators should not be asking for Mark Zuckerberg’s promises of self-regulation or blessing on making laws. They should be hitting him with a rubber hose before carting him off to a prison – or at least conducting the questioning as if that was what they had in mind.
Because every senator was limited to under five minutes, Zuckerberg always tried to run the clock by talking bollocks – corporate mission, objectives or his personal beliefs.
It was all a show trial designed to let Zuckerberg off the hook and it was pretty obvious for those of us who watched it.