Bret Taylor Defends Facebook's Privacy Practices

By Nick O'Neill Comment

Yesterday morning, Bret Taylor, chief technical of Facebook, along with other top technology companies, testified to the Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance Senate Subcommittee on the topic of consumer privacy and protection in the mobile marketplace.

This moment is a pivotal time for Facebook who could be significantly impacted by any new privacy bills passed. As Facebook has articulated in conjunction with other organizations, increased privacy regulation would most definitely mean increased costs. Facebook also tends to defend the exhaustive efforts that the company has taken in an effort to protect its users.

During his opening statements, Taylor discussed five key points:

  1. Openness of the Internet is a catalyst for innovation — social web is an engine for jobs, innovation, and economic growth, internet architecture creates technical challenges for the transfer of data,
  2. Mobile technology is playing an increasing role in how people experience the social web,
  3. Facebook has built robust privacy protections into as it cannot adopt a one size fits all approach,
  4. The company has worked to build trust on the Facebook platform, and
  5. The company has used its position to encourage others to play their part in safe guarding the public’s trust

The full contents of Taylor’s opening testimony is displayed below:

As the hearing progressed, Facebook was grilled by Senator Jay Rockefeller (a Democrat from West Virginia) who focused on the fact that 7.5 million of Facebook’s users are under 13, despite the fact that the site has rules prohibiting those users from registering.

Even more, Rockefeller expressed discontent that Apple’s app store states that the application is appropriate for all users over the age of four, to which Taylor replied, “That’s news to me.”

Rockefeller stated that “parents are terrified” about predators, bullying, humiliation, and other issues.

Given their concerns, Rockefeller asked the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, how many people work to protect users. She replied that there are 100 people who are monitoring all the members. The senator called that number unacceptable.

For the most part the hearing was an opportunity for Facebook to defend its practices and begin the conversation over consumer privacy rights.

While the hearing didn’t result in any conclusions, new legislation on these issues might impact Facebook’s bottom line.

One thing is certain: privacy will continue to be a critical issue for the company.