Sen. Nelson: Facebook Failed Us

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said he has told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg "in no uncertain terms" that the social media company has to protect users' data. 

The implied “or else” was that the government can’t just accept a "trust us" pledge at face, or Facebook, value.

That came in a meeting before Zuckerberg's planned testimony before the Senate committee Tuesday (April 10) about the Cambridge Analytica user data sharing issue, and privacy and access to data more broadly.

Nelson said Commerce chair John Thune (R-S.D.) has agreed to probe Cambridge Analytica as well.

Zuckerberg pledged in written testimony for a Wednesday hearing on the House side --likely pretty close if not identical to what he will tell the senators -- that the company had seen the error of its data-protection ways and was making amends, but that will likely not spare him a trip to the Hill woodshed in D.C. this week, as Nelson's statement made clear.

"Facebook failed us," Nelson said bluntly, something Zuckerberg has all but acknowledged, chalking it up to a young, idealistic company whose growth and reach raced ahead of its ability to address the data-protection issue.

"Not only did they fail to safeguard the personal information of millions of users, they concealed it from us – and this is not the first time the company mishandled user information," Nelson said. "Only now are they coming clean and informing those who have had their information compromised and telling us they are going to make things right," he said.

Nelson also called for Thune to "haul Cambridge Analytica" before the committee for its role in accessing and monetizing Facebook user data, saying Thune has promised to do just that.

"The bottom line here is if Facebook can’t fix its privacy problems then how can Americans trust them to be caretakers of their sensitive information?," said Nelson.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.