U.S. senator warns of possibility of breaking up Facebook over privacy concerns

The scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica is causing continuous problems for Facebook. in the lead-up to Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, TechCrunch reports that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) warned that Facebook could be be broken up if Zuckerberg doesn’t take steps to protect users’ privacy.

“There are going to be people who are going to say Facebook ought to be broken up,” Wyden said. “There have been a number of proposals and ideas for doing it, and I think unless [Zuckerberg] finds a way to honor the promise he made several years ago, he’s gonna have a law on his hands.”

In the weeks following news regarding Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg and Facebook have spoken about the need to better protect users’ privacy. Zuckerberg even took out ads apologizing for the scandal, saying that if his company cannot protect users’ data, then it does not deserve to have it.

Wyden warned that Facebook would have to do more than simply promise to do better. He wants to see concrete and actionable steps that aren’t simple public relations stunts or convoluted technicalities.

“I think we’ve got to establish a principle once and for all that you own your data, period,” Wyden said. “What does that mean in the real world? It’s not enough for a company to bury some technical lingo in their [terms of service] … It’s not enough to have some convoluted process for opting out.”

Unfortunately for Facebook, the news surrounding Cambridge Analytica broke after 2017 brought numerous data breaches at companies such as Equifax. Wyden believes that, taken together, these scandals may generate enough political will to pass a law that could break up Facebook and similar entities.

“If there is a grass-roots uprising about the issue of who owns user data, we can get it passed,” Wyden said, noting that he would support such a bill.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, used data from an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” to obtain confidential info on tens of millions of Facebook users. While about 270,000 people gave the app permission to access their data, the app took things a step farther by obtaining information from their friends lists, compromising the privacy of millions of users who did not agree to the app’s terms.

For now, much of the future of Facebook will hinge on the company’s actions going forward, as well as Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress. The Facebook CEO is scheduled to appear before the Senate’s judiciary and commerce committees on Tuesday, April 10. The next day, he is scheduled to speak before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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