WASHINGTON, DC—Two days of Congressional hearings with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg left Internet users with many questions about security, privacy, and the ways that data harvesting can undermine democracy and basic rights. But they also made clear that we can’t trust Facebook to fix this problem on their own, nor can we trust Congress to make them fix it.
Many members of Congress displayed a lack of understanding of tech issues that would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous. Others, like the notoriously corrupt Rep Marsha Blackburn, who sponsored a bill to gut Internet privacy protections last year, pushed for disingenuous legislation backed by powerful ISPs. There were calls for censorship, talk of artificial intelligence, and many dodged questions.
The most important aspect of the hearings is what Mark Zuckerberg didn’t say. He proposed some cosmetic changes to Facebook’s practices, but they fall far short of the key steps outlined by tech and human rights experts at SecurityPledge.com. The pledge is a major new campaign led by groups like Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, and the ACLU, calling on tech companies to take concrete steps to protect their users. The site asks Internet users to add their name to an open letter calling on tech companies to take the data security pledge and make needed changes to ensure their users’ data isn’t used against them.
"The Internet is at a turning point. We can’t wait for CEOs of big tech companies or politicians in Washington, DC to save us. Internet users need to come together to take back control of our data," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), "There are very clear steps that companies can take to ensure that their products are not used for surveillance or to undermine democracy. We need to demand that they take those steps, and abandon services that refuse to do what is needed to protect their users."
Organizations supporting the Security Pledge include 18 Million Rising, the ACLU, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Council, Color of Change, Coworker.org, Defending Rights & Dissent, Demand Progress, Free Press, the Government Accountability Project, OpenMedia, Presente, and SumofUs.