Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg appeared at today’s House Judiciary hearing less than completely true of last year’s Onavo major controversy, in which his company paid minors for using a VPN application that provided details about their use on the Internet. Although he did not have to lie completely about it, his answers were evasive and misleading to ensure a quick explanation soon after.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked Zuckerberg to confirm a series of events reported by TechCrunch last year: A VPN application called Onavo, owned by Facebook, has been removed from the Apple App Store to collect and report usage data while sought to provide a protective service.
Soon after, Facebook quietly began to pay people ̵1; 18 percent of them teenagers – to install the “Facebook Research” application, which did the same thing as Onavo under a different name. TechCrunch reported it and Apple issued a ban before the end of the day; Facebook claimed to have removed it voluntarily, but it turned out not to be true.
Rep. Johnson questioned Zuckerberg in this regard, who repeatedly expressed his uncertainty and lack of knowledge of these issues.
Johnson: When it happens that Facebook uses Onavo to perform digital surveillance, your company was fired from Apple’s App Store, isn’t that true?
Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not sure if I would characterize it this way.
Johnson: I think Onavo was fired from the app store, isn’t that right?
Zuckerberg: Congressman, We selected this app after Apple changed its policies for VPN apps.
Johnson: This is due to the use of tracking tools.
Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not sure if the policy was formulated this way or if it’s exactly its correct characteristic … [The policies are explained below.]
Johnson: Let me ask you this question, when Onavo was discontinued from the app store, you turned to other tracking tools, such as Facebook Research App, right?
Zuckerberg: Congressman, in general yes, we do a wide range –
Johnson: Isn’t it true, Mr. Zuckerberg, that Facebook paid teenagers to sell their privacy by installing the Facebook Research App?
Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not familiar with this, but I think it’s a general practice that companies use to research and understand how people use different products and what their preferences are.
Johnson: Facebook Research has also been kicked out of the App Store, isn’t it?
Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not familiar with that.
Of course, the absurd idea is that Zuckerberg did not recognize the events that brought the headlines, downloaded internal Facebook applications all day, and provoked an enraged letter from the senator. (After all, Facebook replied.)
Perhaps Zuckerberg realized that this particular claim of ignorance was too far away (and perhaps in response to some furious action outside the CEO’s headquarters in the CEO’s virtual testimony), he took the opportunity a few minutes later:
In response to a question put by Congressman Johnson before I said I did not know the Facebook research application when I did not know a name with that name. I just want to make it clear that I remember that we used the application for research and have stopped using it ever since.
Of course, although Zuckerberg was probably not sure of the name, it is not possible to believe that he did not know the events of that time, because they were highly published and very expensive for Facebook. He would, of course, be refreshed while preparing for this testimony.
The fact that Zuckerberg is unfamiliar with the exact wording of Apple’s policies is possible, or even probable, but it was no secret that those policies had changed in response to reports of Facebook’s Onavo bartender. Here’s what Apple said at the time:
We work hard to protect user privacy and data security in the Apple ecosystem. When we last updated our guidelines, we explicitly stated that applications should not collect information about which other applications are installed on the user’s device for analytical or advertising / marketing purposes, and we must clearly state which user data will be collected and how it will be used. .
Later, when TechCrunch showed that Facebook was using an enterprise deployment tool to essentially download spyware to teen phones, Apple said:
We designed our Enterprise Developer Program exclusively for internal application distribution across the organization. Facebook uses its membership to distribute the data collection application to consumers, in clear violation of their agreement with Apple. Any developer who uses their enterprise certificates to distribute applications to customers will have their certificates revoked, which we did in this case to protect our users and their data.
Facebook was therefore the reason implicitly first, then later explicitly, for these blocking of App Store applications. Rep. Johnson put the whole thing quite clearly at the end of his questions.
Johnson: You tried one thing and then you got caught, you apologized and then you did it again. [long pause]… it is not truth?
Zuckerberg: Congressman, I disagree with this characteristic.
You can watch the full hearing here: