Zuckerberg on sharing his personal info: ‘Um, uh, no’

Facebook CEO confounded when grilled by US Senator Durbin in hearing into leak of personal data

WASHINGTON Of the hundreds of questions thrown at Mr Mark Zuckerberg by US lawmakers on Tuesday, none appeared to flummox the Facebook founder more than Senator Dick Durbin's pointed query about where he slept the previous evening.

"Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?" Mr Durbin asked during a closely watched hearing about online digital privacy and Facebook's role in what happens to personal information once users join the platform.

Mr Zuckerberg paused for a full eight seconds, chuckled, grimaced, and ultimately demurred.

"Um, uh, no," he said.

And "if you've messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you've messaged?" the Illinois Democrat persisted.

Again, a similar unwillingness to answer.

Perhaps more than any other senator during the five hours of questioning, Mr Durbin's tactic put a finger on the crux of the issue surrounding Facebook's failure to maintain control of the private information of tens of millions of users, amid a scandal over the gathering of personal data used to target political advertising and messaging during the 2016 presidential race.

"I think that might be what this is all about," said Mr Durbin.

"Your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy, and how much you give away in modern America in the name of connecting people around the world."

Mr Zuckerberg, who, at 33, runs a multi-billion-dollar company with some two billion users, accepted personal responsibility for the leak of users' data and vowed that the company will do better in guarding such information.

He also conceded Mr Durbin's point was a fair one.

"I think everyone should have control over how their information is used,"Mr Zuckerberg said.

Under mounting pressure over the hijacking of its user data by a British political consultant, Mr Zuckerberg reiterated his apology for the historic breach, before being grilled over how Facebook collects and protects people's personal information.

"It was my mistake, and I'm sorry," Mr Zuckerberg said the improper sharing of 87 million people's information by Cambridge Analytica, a firm working for Mr Donald Trump in 2016.

"I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here."

He added that Facebook fell short in protecting the platform, noting: "That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy."

He spoke of a constant struggle to guard against Russian manipulation of the Facebook platform to influence elections in the US and elsewhere.

"There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other Internet systems and other systems as well," he said.

"So this is an arms race. They're going to keep getting better and we need to invest in getting better at this too."

He said he was open to regulation but cautioned against complex rules that might impact emerging social media firms.

"I'm not the type of person who thinks all regulation is bad," he told Senator Dan Sullivan.

Mr Zuckerberg also revealed that Facebook is cooperating with the US special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 vote.

"Our work with the special counsel is confidential. I want to make sure in an open session I don't reveal something that is confidential," he said.- AFP