Of all the many creepy concerns raised by Facebook’s enormous power and reach, one of the creepiest is the idea that the social network follows you around the internet even when you’re logged off—all so it can serve you better ads and make even more money off your data.
Because Facebook is a black box, the extent of those tracking abilities is the subject of a lot of speculation, and apparently not even Mark Zuckerberg wants to get into the details. At a Senate Judiciary hearing today, the Facebook CEO was asked by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), about Facebook’s ability to track people outside of Facebook proper.
Here’s how the exchange went down:
Roger Wicker: There have been reports that Facebook can track users’ internet browsing activity even after that user has logged off the Facebook platform. Can you confirm whether or not this is true?
Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, I want to make sure I get this accurate, so it might be better to have my team follow up.
RW: You don’t know?
RW: When you get back to me, sir, can you also let me know how Facebook discloses to its users that this type of tracking gives us that result?
Zuckerberg’s use of the word “probably” there is telling. Does the chief executive of the world’s largest social network not know whether his company has the ability to piece together our digital breadcrumbs?
The frustrating exchange highlighted a recurring theme in the hearing—which is part of an effort by Capitol Hill lawmakers to learn more about Facebook’s data privacy scandal—in which Zuckerberg repeatedly said he would defer to his “team” and respond to a specific question at a later time.
All I can say is, Facebook’s team better be prepared to work some overtime.