Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Judiciary Committee
Cambridge Analytica and the Future of Data Privacy
May 16, 2018
Facebook matter involving Aleksander Kogan and Cambridge Analytica shed a
bright light on the data practices of some of our largest technology
companies. Although advertisers and political campaigns have collected
and used data for years, the public seemed generally unaware. This
story has forced both the public and lawmakers to confront serious issues that
need to be addressed, including what role Congress should play in
promoting transparency for consumers regarding data collection and use, while
ensuring a well-functioning marketplace for our data-dependent technologies to
drive further innovation. We started that conversation with Mr.
Zuckerberg last month. I hope that today we can continue a productive and
meaningful debate about these serious policy issues.
events like these, more often than not, seem to get muddied by partisanship and
efforts to score a quick soundbite.
Facebook story first broke in December 2015, when The Guardian identified that
Dr. Kogan had allegedly transferred Facebook data to Cambridge Analytica in
violation of Facebook’s data policy. According to Cambridge’s press
releases and a recent internal report, in July 2016, Facebook requested
Cambridge and its affiliates to remove any data received from Dr. Kogan.
Cambridge said that they removed the data and filed legal certifications to
Facebook saying as much.
had requested that Cambridge Analytica appear at this hearing to explain these
facts and tell their side of the story. Cambridge, however, recently
commenced insolvency proceedings and therefore determined it could not
participate in this hearing.
underlying story has not changed since 2015, except for two important
events. First, Cambridge began doing work for the Trump campaign.
Second, President Trump won the 2016 election. These two facts sounded an
alarm that revived the Cambridge story.
does not diminish the importance of this discussion, but only highlights the
extreme partisanship at play and that this conversation could have easily taken
place in 2015.
fact, this conversation could have taken place much earlier. Advertising
agencies and political campaigns have utilized data analytics tools for many
years. Campaigns, including those of Presidential candidates in every
election year since at least the 1990s used data to micro-target. During the
past three presidential elections these strategies have expanded to social media
platforms, specifically Facebook.
Obama’s campaign developed an app utilizing the same Facebook feature that
Cambridge used to capture the information of not just the apps users, but also
millions of their friends. President Obama’s app potentially pulled even more
information than Cambridge’s app. A former Obama campaign official, Carol
Davidsen, recently wrote, “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the
whole social graph” in the 2012 election.
could also be talking about more recent events, like BuzzFeed’s partnering with
multiple Democratic and anti-Trump super PACs in 2016. In a 2016
interview, BuzzFeed’s Vice President of Politics and Advocacy said that one of
the problems BuzzFeed was working with other partners to solve was “how are we
going to get women who do not like Hillary Clinton to vote for her?” That type
of voter outreach is not surprising to many. That’s because it happens
all the time. Similarly, it shouldn’t be surprising that President
Trump’s campaign used consultants to help reach voters as well.
of these events and whether such tactics are actually effective, it is clear
that the use of data across the political spectrum is only increasing.
so, instead of just treating this as a partisan issue to score political
points, the important policy discussion we should really have is where tech,
consumers, and Congress should go from here.
tech companies have access to some of our most sensitive data. Are these
companies doing enough to properly disclose their data polices and protect user
of the services offered by these tech companies provide huge benefits to
consumers at little to no cost. Are consumers blissfully unaware or are
they making informed choices with respect to how their data is collected and
2015, the U.S. consumer technology sector directly provided 4.7 million jobs
and generated $1.9 trillion in output, $435 billion in labor income, and $192
billion in tax payments. How do we ensure the proper amount of regulation
to protect consumers without damaging an industry that has been vital to our
are the questions we should be asking. I hope today’s hearing will allow us to
continue that discussion.