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Democratic Sen. Ed Markey Discusses Testimony From Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg


Today is the first of two days of hearings. Tomorrow Zuckerberg will stand before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


Let's bring in the voice of one of the senators questioning Zuckerberg today, Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts. Senator, welcome back to the show.

ED MARKEY: Thank you.

KELLY: So I want to start with just your overall impression. How's it going? There were a lot of pent-up questions for Mark Zuckerberg. Are you getting some of the answers you hoped to hear?

MARKEY: Well, my focus was on the question of, what are the privacy rights of all Americans? And that is the issue that I raised with him. And it was general. First, a privacy bill of rights for everyone regardless of age that they had a right to give their permission before any information that they put online with Facebook or anyone else was reused for another purpose. He gave me an ambiguous answer to that question. And I think the American people want to know that there are going to be real safeguards after Cambridge Analytica and all of the other information which is coming out. So I think the American people are still without the information they need to know whether or not these hearings are going to result in more privacy protections for them and their families, especially the young children in their homes.

KELLY: Well, as a lawmaker with oversight, what do you plan to do about it? Where does this go next?

MARKEY: Well, I've introduced a privacy bill of rights for all Americans and a narrower privacy bill of rights for kids under 16. And my hope is that we will begin to take this issue seriously. I'm the author of the 1999 Child Online Privacy Protection Act. That's the Constitution for child online privacy in America. But that was before Facebook. That was before all these companies voraciously gobble up information to market it to other companies or to use it for other purposes. My hope is that this hearing will help to illuminate the gaps that exist in American law in terms of really providing protections to the families of our country.

That is something that this hearing potentially is going to help in terms of acceleration of passage of meaningful legislation. I have my fingers crossed. I think today is a watershed day. I think the day of reckoning has arrived for Facebook and other companies. And privacy now may be something that we're able to move through the Congress and put on the books as a absolute fundamental right in our country.

KELLY: I want to ask you quickly about another piece of legislation that has your fingerprints on it. This is the Honest Ads Act, which is something you've co-sponsored. It would require increased transparency from people who buy political ads. Facebook says it's onboard, and the latest twist is Twitter signed on today. Where does that leave things in terms of policing of political ads on Facebook and other platforms?

MARKEY: Well, I think it's good news that there is support from Facebook and Twitter for legislation that ensures that there is disclosure in the online community of who is in fact paying for the ads that people are seeing during the election cycle. I think it's a...

KELLY: Did you have a chance to ask Mark Zuckerberg about that act today?

MARKEY: Mark Zuckerberg today reiterated his support for moving forward on that legislation. And my hope is that on a bipartisan basis, since it is a bill that has bipartisan support, that we will be able to move forward and get it put on the books before we have another election cycle.

KELLY: Well, bottom line, senator, you indicated you didn't feel like you'd gotten fully satisfying answers from Mark Zuckerberg to the questions you asked. But you also described today as a watershed day. You know, if your colleagues and members of the House tomorrow when they're questioning Mark Zuckerberg could put one or two - just what are the top outstanding questions in your mind for him in this, you know, tour on Capitol Hill this week?

MARKEY: My focus is on where we go from here in terms of the privacy of all Americans. My hope is that legislators will now realize that we have to pass a privacy bill of rights for all citizens, but at a minimum for kids under 16. That's my hope.

KELLY: And do you have Republican sponsors for that? Do you think the political will is there in the Capitol?

MARKEY: At this point, no. But I do have overwhelming public support. Eighty percent of all Americans regardless of party want a privacy bill of rights. And in fact the Europeans have instituted and the law will go into effect on May 25 of this year providing an opt-in requirement to gain permission from all of the citizens of Europe before their information can be reused. So the question now is, will we provide the same privacy protections in America for our adults, but especially for our kids, as Europe is providing for theirs?

KELLY: Senator Markey, thanks for your time.

MARKEY: You're welcome. Thank you.

KELLY: That's Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, one of the members of the commerce committee. That's one of two committees questioning Mark Zuckerberg today. Our coverage of Mark Zuckerberg's testimony will continue tonight - more reaction, more analysis - and then we'll pick it up again tomorrow on Morning Edition.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELEMENT'S "LOOKING FOR THE VOID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.