Yesterday people who are in charge of the largest violator of privacy, the United States Congress, ironically grilled Mark Zuckerberg on the topic of privacy. I didn’t watch the hearing because I have better things to do with my time but I did check the highlights and they were what I expected. A bunch of old white people who have no idea how the Internet works made a public show of authority in the hopes of convincing the masses that their desire to further control the Internet is necessary:
In doing so, many of the senators betrayed a general lack of knowledge about how Facebook operates. Imagine trying to explain social media to your grandparents—this was essentially Zuckerberg’s task.
Sen. Roy Blunt, (R–Mo.), for instance, didn’t seem to understand that Facebook lacks a means of accessing information from other apps unless users specifically opt in. The same was true of Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.), who needed a lot of clarification on how Facebook Messenger interacts with cellular service. Zuckerberg had to carefully explain to Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) that WhatsApp is encrypted, and Facebook can’t read, let alone monetize, the information people exchange using that service. Zuckerberg had to explain to multiple senators, including Dean Heller (R–Nev.), that Facebook doesn’t technically sell its data: The ad companies don’t get to see the raw information.
But senators on both sides of the political aisle were clear about their concerns—and more than willing to step in.
“If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix their privacy invasions, then we are going to have to,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D–Fla.). “We, the Congress.”
What Nelson and his colleagues largely failed to do was demonstrate that “we, the Congress” possess the requisite knowledge to regulate Facebook, or that those regulations would improve upon the policies Facebook would like to implement on its own.
The article contains other ignorant questions and concerns that were fielded by senators. From reading through them it’s obvious that the people tasked with the hearing are entirely out of touch with the topic at hand. Were it not for the positions of power that they hold, their opinions on the matter would almost certainly be dismissed by most people. But they wear suits and occupy a marble building so their ignorance is irrelevant. They have the power to give themselves whatever control they so desire. They may not understand how Facebook or the overall Internet works but they can vote themselves the power to regulate them.
This is part of the reason why political solutions always fail. There is no requirement that the politicians understand the problem to which they’re providing a solution. If you don’t understand the problem, you cannot hope to provide a valid solution.