Dem compares Facebook data collection to FBI surveillance on civil rights activists

Dem compares Facebook data collection to FBI surveillance on civil rights activists
© Greg Nash

A Democratic lawmaker on Wednesday told Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook teaming with nonprofits to fight fake election news China may be copying Facebook to build an intelligence weapon Facebook announces verification to images and video on platform MORE he believes there are similarities between Facebook's data collection practices and the federal government's covert operation in the 1960s that improperly surveilled black civil rights activists.

Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushBlack Dem lawmaker slams NRA rep for saying she was victim of 'public lynching' at CNN event Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for certain opioid, cocaine treatment MORE (D-Ill.) said during day two of Zuckerberg's hearings on Capitol Hill that the FBI and local police “maliciously” tricked organizations and individuals into participating in a counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO. He said particpants "tracked and shared" information about civil rights activists, including their political, social and religious affiliations.

“I was personally a victim of COINTELPRO. Your organization, your methodology, in my opinion is similar," Rush told Zuckerberg. 

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He said that Facebook has impeded on Americans' rights through its "wholesale invasion and manipulation" of an individual's right to privacy.

"Mr. Zuckerberg, what is the difference between Facebook’s methodology and the methodology of the American political pariah J. Edgar Hoover?" he asked, referring to the former FBI director who oversaw the program.

Zuckerberg pushed back against the characterization, saying the option to share information on the social media platform and then later remove the data makes Facebook data collection far different than surveillance. 

"Congressman, this is an important question because I think people often ask what the difference is between surveillance and what we do. I think the difference is extremely clear: it's that on Facebook you have control over your information," he replied.

"The content that you share, you put there. You can take it down anytime. The information we choose to collect, you can choose to have us not collect. You can delete any of it and of course, you can leave Facebook if you want. I know of no surveillance organization that gives people the option to delete the data they have or even know they are collecting."

His remarks before House lawmakers comes one day after he was grilled by senators about the company's data use. 

The hearing, "Facebook: Transparency and Use of Consumer Data," comes amid concerns millions of Facebook users' information was improperly used by third party organizations during the 2016 presidential election.

Zuckerberg has apologized for the data leaks, pledging to do better. 

"That much influence comes with enormous social responsibility," Rush added.