Big Data

Zuckerberg's Facebook testimony: 5 big questions for businesses and developers

The Facebook CEO is set to testify before Congress on the Cambridge Analytica big data scandal that left data from 87 million users compromised.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before the US House and Senate regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russian interference in the US presidential election.
  • Despite Zuckerberg's steps to change how Facebook handles data, many questions remain for business leaders.

Data privacy and security have clearly emerged as the top issues facing tech businesses in 2018. And nowhere is that more clearly evidenced than in the scandal surrounding Facebook's mishandling of customer data.

In early April 2018, it was revealed that data from some 87 million Facebook users was shared with research firm Cambridge Analytica. Now, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before the US House and Senate about the Cambridge Analytica controversy and potential Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

SEE: Social media policy (Tech Pro Research)

Ahead of the hearing, Congress released Zuckerberg's prepared testimony that explains some of the talking points that he'll be going over. In the testimony Zuckerberg calls Facebook an "idealistic" company, but notes that he has "some hard questions" to answer.

Zuckerberg wrote in his testimony that Facebook is working on safeguarding its platform, limiting the data developers have access to, and building out its security team. However, there are still five major questions that Zuckerberg must address for businesses and the developer community.

SEE: Watch Mark Zuckerberg's Senate committee testimony - live updates (CBS News)

1. Can Facebook quickly spin up the security and governance infrastructure needed to avoid the next Cambridge Analytica?

As part of Zuckerberg's testimony, he said that Facebook would be "significantly increasing" its investment in security. While there are currently 15,000 people working on security at Facebook, the firm's goal is to have more than 20,000 working on it by the end of 2018, the testimony said.

At the time of this writing, there are 265 days left in 2018. To meet the goal of hiring 5,000 people by the end of the year, Facebook would have to hire roughly 19 people per day. On top of that, questions remain about whether these people will be full-time employees or contractors, who will vet them, and how they'll get up to speed.

2. Is Facebook prepared to be more transparent about what data it collects on people and how it uses it?

The big concern for many professionals, especially, surrounding the Cambridge Analytica scandal was figuring out just what data of theirs was compromised. While Facebook does have pages buried in its settings that show users how ads are targeted to them, it doesn't go very far in explaining just what data it has captured on their lives.

Other companies like Google have an easy-to-find privacy dashboard with options to limit the data collected, but Facebook doesn't. To improve its relations with the business community, Facebook will have to up its transparency and explain exactly what data it is collecting on users.

3. What protections does Facebook currently have in place for businesses, and how will those change moving forward?

While the Cambridge Analytica revelations directly impact millions of consumers, they also impact the businesses that would and do advertise on the platform. On SMBs, specifically, Zuckerberg noted that "more than 70 million small businesses now use Facebook to grow and create jobs."

The firm has already laid out changes to its advertising policy, but Zuckerberg must explain how the company will defend corporate data on its platform and create a safe environment for the businesses that do work there.

4. How will Workplace customers be protected?

Workplace by Facebook is the firm's enterprise collaboration platform. While it is separate from a user's personal Facebook account, it likely still collects data about its users.

IT leaders at organizations where Workplace is deployed need to know how their employees will be protected on the platform. Enterprise collaboration platforms are where a massive amount of work is getting done these days, and if Facebook wants to keep users on Workplace, it must convince them that it's doing everything in its power to look out for them.

SEE: What developers need to know about Facebook's huge data privacy changes (TechRepublic)

5. How will things change for developers?

Another professional population that will be impacted by the changes at Facebook is developers.

"It's not enough to give people control of their information, we have to make sure developers they've given it to are protecting it too," Zuckerberg wrote in his testimony.

In a recent press call, Zuckerberg detailed some changes to APIs across the Facebook ecosystem, including new requirements and limitations. However, massive changes to APIs often mean broken apps somewhere else. Facebook-owned Instagram recently shrunk its API limit from 5,000 calls per user, per hour down to 200, breaking a lot of apps in the process.

Developers must be given a clear picture of what will change regarding apps built on the platform, and how they can stay on the right side of Facebook's new restrictions, while also building the apps they want to build.

Also see

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Image: James Martin/CNET

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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