Facebook Rejects U.S. Congress Claim That It Is a Monopoly

After two months, Facebook responded to the more than 2,000 questions that Congressional committees asked chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. In the resulting 450-page document, Facebook rebutted government claims that it is a monopoly and didn’t answer if an app can spy on its rivals. Instead, Facebook emphasized that it has learned its lesson and is giving its users more control over their data. It also revealed more details about the info it collected, such as battery levels of users’ devices and computer mouse movements.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “the company deflected questions that probed at Facebook’s increasing market power and influence in the world.” In response to the claim that Facebook is a monopoly, the company “listed other apps that people can use for certain features it offers,” noted that, “the average American uses eight different apps to communicate with friends and stay in touch with people,” and concluded that, “in Silicon Valley and around the world, new social apps are emerging all the time.”

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Facebook did not, however, mention that, of the most downloaded free mobile apps, four are owned by Facebook: its main service, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. Its two main social media competitors — Twitter and Snap — have user bases “that are just a fraction of the size of Facebook’s.”

With regard to competition from startups, WSJ notes that, “venture capitalists say they are wary of backing new social networking upstarts, because they believe it would be difficult to compete with Facebook.” Facebook also owns Onavo, an app that allows it to “see what people do on their phones beyond Facebook’s own apps,” data it has used to get “insight into its rivals’ services and “informed the company’s decision to buy companies like WhatsApp.”

Facebook stated that its existing privacy policy for Onavo “makes it clear to users that their activity is being tracked,” since they have to tap a button marked “Accept & Continue” after seeing the information “in a full-screen interstitial before they can use the app.”

The New York Times reports that Facebook, which is “also preparing to send its responses to questions posed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce,” noted in its answers that it “was actively looking for other companies that might have harvested people’s personal data.”

Facebook said, in response to Senator John Thune’s question, that it is “investigating every app that had gathered a large amount of Facebook data and that 200 apps had already been suspended pending further investigation.” With regard to the upcoming November midterm elections, Facebook described “how it was deploying new tools to root out fake accounts and disinformation campaigns.”

Related:
Facebook Tells Senate It Started a Privacy Design Lab Called TTC, Bloomberg, 6/12/18