Congressman set to question Facebook's Zuckerberg admits to tech skills 'less than the average 12-year-old'

  • Rep. Michael Burgess says he's like many users who didn't pay too much attention to Facebook's terms of service.
  • The Texas Republican, an ob-gyn before politics, says he hopes the Zuckerberg hearings make consumers more aware of "what exactly they're sharing."

Ahead of the chance to grill Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill, Rep. Michael Burgess made a disclosure that played into the hands of critics who say lawmakers don't know enough about technology.

"I don't want to speak for the rest of the committee, but I will be the first to confess that the degree of technological sophistication that I possess is probably somewhat significantly less than the average 12-year-old," the 67-year-old Texas Republican told CNBC.

Burgess, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also said he's like many users who didn't pay too much attention to the Facebook terms of service he agreed to. "I'm the same as any other consumer. I downloaded the app; yeah, yeah, yeah, get me to the reason I downloaded the app. I don't want all these legalese."

However, Burgess, who was a practicing ob-gyn for over 25 years before politics, said technology, like it or not, is playing an increasing role in everyone's lives. "If there's nothing else that's achieved in these hearings yesterday and today is to make the consumer a little bit more educated about just what exactly they're sharing."

Zuckerberg was questioned on Tuesday before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. He is scheduled to go before Burgess' committee at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

"The problem is the senators, in a lot of cases, weren't prepared to ask follow-up questions. So he was able to stick to his talking points," said Michael Wolf, CEO and co-founder of technology consultancy Activate. He also was formerly president of MTV Networks.

Highlights from Tuesday's Senate hearing include Zuckerberg saying that he's open to government regulation; that there's been recent no dramatic user drop-off; and that Facebook didn't notify the Federal Trade Commission about the latest data misuse situation.

In 2011, Facebook agreed with the FTC to settle charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on the platform private, and then allowing that data to be shared and made public, according to the agency at the time. The deal called for fines of $40,000 per violation.

Facebook has denied any violation of its agreement with the FTC, which said it's investigating the matter.

Facebook has said it first learned of the Cambridge Analytica leak in 2015 and demanded the political consulting group, which worked for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, delete the data. Zuckerberg told senators, "We considered it a closed case. In retrospect that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn't have taken their word for it."

Burgess believes that questions about whether Facebook should have notified the FTC and whether it violated the 2011 consent decree will come up at Wednesday's House hearing. "Our committee does have jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission and the consent agreement."

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