Science, Technology, and Social Media

Facebook Breaks Out The Big Guns As Zuckerberg Wards Off Regulators

Facebook is using company executives to personally answer questions from policy makers about the nature of the social media giant’s data sharing empire, Axios reported Tuesday. The platform typically uses lobbyists for this kind of work.

The company’s vice president of products partnerships, Ime Archibong, is meeting with House and Senate staffers Tuesday to provide them with information about the company’s inner-workings. He is also scheduled to brief Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees staff members.

Archibong was not the only executive answering questions. Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of cybersecurity, also took meetings in the House and Senate about efforts to protect the platform from outside interference.

Lawmakers were upset after media reports in 2018 showed Facebook created dual partnerships with Spotify and Netflix, among others, that allowed CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s empire to spread user information across multiple platforms.

“Mr. Zuckerberg told us that this kind of nonsense would end and it didn’t,” Republican Sen. John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana told reporters in December. “Now the first time, you can argue it’s a mistake, but the second time, it’s a choice.”

Archibong played a crucial role in defending the company’s actions, writing in a December 2018 blog post that the partnerships were set up “via extensive negotiations and documentation, detailing how the third party would use the API, and what data they could and couldn’t access.”

He did not mention at the time why Facebook ceded control of a critical pillar of the company’s personal data collection tools to artificial intelligence after it became too large for employees to manage.

The partnerships allowed the Silicon Valley company to adhere itself to multiple social media platforms while insulating itself from competition. The program became too unwieldy by 2013 for mid-level employees to govern, so Facebook executives eventually resorted to giving AI control over the apparatus.

Facebook used contact lists from the partners, including Chinese company Huawei, which American officials consider a security threat because of its connections to China — to gain deeper insight into people’s relationships, according to media reports.

House lawmakers grilled Zuckerberg in April 2018 about the company’s data mining capabilities. He did not mention the partnerships at the time. The drama comes at a bad time for the 15-year-old company.

Facebook revealed in September that hackers had taken advantage of a piece of code allowing them to take over users’ accounts. The company forced more than 90 million users to sign out to return the accounts to their creators.

Facebook has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about whether Archibong will discuss with lawmakers the role artificial intelligence played in the dual partnership program.

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