Fischer vs Facebook: Social Media Still Talking

Omaha, NE.—Facebook’s mea culpa to Congress won’t die anytime soon if Nebraska Democrats get their way.

The state Democratic Party is specifically targeting GOP Senator Deb Fischer and her nationally televised questioning of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

According to the Democrats, Fischer’s questioning proves that the 67-year-old lawmaker, who is running for re-election this year, is badly out of touch when it comes to the nuts and bolts of social media.

While Fischer doubled down with a post-game letter to Zuckerberg, accusing him of evading her questions, Fischer’s words are held against her in a 1-minute Democratic Party video (see it here) pushed out on—what else—social media.

Here’s an excerpt:

Sen. Fischer: How many data categories do you store, does Facebook store on the categories you collect?

Zuckerberg: Senator can you clarify what you mean by data categories?

Sen. Fischer: There’s some past reports that have been out there that indicate that Facebook collects about 96 data categories. How many does Facebook store out of that. Do you store any?

Zuckerberg: Senator I’m not exactly sure what that is referring to.

During the video, as Fischer is talking, tweets appear on the screen:

  • “Sen. Deb Fischer’s questions to Zuckerberg makes me so grateful I am not the person she calls when she can’t figure out how to use her remote.”
  • “Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) is the most out-of-touch, lowest-functioning member at the hearing today. Is she awake? Is she sleep-talking? How did she get elected?”

Asked by News Channel Nebraska for a comment on the video, Fischer did not specifically respond.

Instead NCN was advised by a Fischer spokesperson to see Fischer’s letter (in full below) insisting that Zuckerberg was ducking the privacy issue, when it comes to the “categories” of health, politics and religion: “I was troubled that you refused to answer my questions on this issue,” wrote Fischer who added, “Your repeated attempts to undermine my usage of “categories” as a descriptor was particularly baffling, given that this verbiage has been used by others in discussing these matters.”

 

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

To make important decisions about their privacy, Facebook users need a clear understanding of the breadth of personal data that Facebook collects, stores, and utilizes for advertising purposes. I was troubled that you refused to answer my questions on this issue when you testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on April 10, 2018. Your repeated attempts to undermine my usage of “categories” as a descriptor was particularly baffling, given that this verbiage has been used by others in discussing these matters. Further, the scope of personal data collection was at the core of the debate in recent years in the European Union on data privacy.

An academic study published at the Charles II University of Madrid in February 2018 examined the frequency with which Facebook collected, stored, and processed sensitive categories of personal data for advertising purposes. These categories included, for example, a person’s health, political orientation, or religious beliefs. As you know, the upcoming European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will significantly restrict the use of such sensitive categories of personal data.

A Washington Post article published in August 2016 discussed at least ninety-eight personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to users. In the intervening years, public concern has only increased as the attributes advertisers are interested in using has exploded. I had hoped my questions would give you an opportunity to further clarify this critical issue. Americans are asking for a public dialogue about the purposes for which Facebook uses their personal data; but a meaningful conversation cannot happen until users also understand the sources from which their data is gleaned and the specific data — which characteristics, attributes, labels, or categories of data points — are being collected and utilized.

To address these concerns, please provide answers to the following questions:

How many categories (i.e. attributes, factors, labels, or data points) does Facebook collect about particular users?

How many categories, as the term is described above, are used to construct the digital profiles that Facebook utilizes to direct ads to particular users?

If a user opts out of directed advertising, does Facebook halt collection of all such data?

If a user opts out of directed advertising, does Facebook delete all such data that was previously stored? Alternatively, does Facebook instead simply stop utilization of that data for directed advertising purposes?

When users download their Facebook data, as Facebook has recently enabled, is all ad targeting data included in that file?

I appreciate the opportunity to continue this conversation and look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Deb Fischer

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Joe Can Be Heard:

Wednesday: Fairbury 8:00am KUTT 99.5-FM

Thursday: Norfolk 8:10am US92-FM, 8:28 KNEN-AM 94.7, Nebraska City 8:55am KBIE 103.1-FM

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