No, Mark Zuckerberg Will Not Change Facebook’s Privacy Defaults

Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

So far, Mark Zuckerberg has skated through his congressional testimony without so much as a bruised pinkie. Yesterday produced a grand total of one good round of questions from Sen. Lindsey Graham about whether Facebook is a monopoly, and today has also (so far) produced one good round of questions. It came from Rep. Frank Pallone:

PALLONE: Yes or no? Will you commit to changing all the user default settings to minimize to the greatest extent possible the collection and use of users’ data? Can you make that commitment?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, we try to collect and give people the ability—

PALLONE: I’d like you to answer yes or no if you could? Will you make the commitment to changing all the user default settings to minimize to the greatest extent possible the collection and use of user’s data? I don’t think that’s hard for you to say yes to unless I’m missing something.

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, this is a complex issue that I think deserves more than a one-word answer.

I’ll concede that the old “yes or no” gambit is kind of tiresome, but sometimes it can produce clarity. Facebook’s data collection has always rested on two pillars: its default privacy settings combined with the difficulty of changing them. Neither one by itself is really enough. You need both.

So Pallone wants to know if Facebook will change its defaults. Note that Pallone is not asking Facebook to stop collecting personal data. Not at all. He’s merely asking them to change the defaults so that people have to actively change them if they want to participate fully in the Facebook community. The nice thing about this is that it also provides Facebook with a great incentive to make its privacy settings easy to use. If they were put in a position where users had to understand the settings and know where to find them before Facebook could collect any personal data—well, I think you’d be amazed at just how quickly they could design a really nice, simple user interface for privacy settings.

But of course Zuckerberg gave the usual response to a yes-or-now question: it’s a complex issue that requires more than a one-word answer. But it’s really not. Just turn off data collection by default. Then explain to users the benefits they get if they turn them on. Done.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate