Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes his first appearances before Congress Tuesday and Wednesday, lawmakers want more information about how the social network allowed the possible misuse of data belonging to 87 million Facebook users and what steps are being taken to prevent it in the future.
This is the second recent wave of hearings involving Facebook. Executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter testified before Senate and House Intelligence Committees in November 2017 about possible Russian manipulation of U.S. social media during the 2016 election campaigns. Zuckerberg was not among the witnesses then.
During those hearings, lawmakers expressed concern about future harmful influence on social media and threatened possible legislation if the companies didn’t take steps to improve security. Already in the legislative hopper: the “Honest Ads Act,” which would require social media companies to disclose who is buying political ads on their services.
Could Facebook face other regulation or penalties? Here’s a look at what could be at stake for the social network, which has more than 2.1 billion monthly active users:
If lawmakers are not satisfied with Zuckerberg’s apology and promises to improve users’ data protection, they could threaten legislation. Just as President Trump has attacked Amazon for being too big, Facebook and Google have become monoliths, too. The two firms are expected to dominate the $90 billion U.S. digital advertising market, capturing more than two-thirds in 2018, estimates research firm eMarketer.
That dominance has already gotten the notice of antitrust regulators in the European Union, where Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is looking into possible misuse of its data practices. If Facebook poses a dominant and unrestricted data risk to users, legislators may be compelled to act.
And the May 25 adoption of new EU data rules called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives users the right to have their data destroyed, could add to momentum in the U.S. Congress.
Already on Tuesday, Democratic Senators Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduce a consumers’ privacy bill of rights to that would require companies such as Facebook get opt-in consent from users to use, share, or sell their personal data
“The avalanche of privacy violations by Facebook and other online companies has reached a critical threshold, and we need legislation that makes consent the law of the land,” Markey said in a statement.