As recently as 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, believed that privacy was no longer a “social norm.” But over the past few weeks — and not a moment too soon — he and his colleagues have learned that privacy still matters to individuals and society.
Revelations about how Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that worked for Donald Trump’s campaign, amassed data about more than 50 million Facebook users without their consent has forced the social media company to tell anyone who will listen that it takes privacy very seriously. Last week, Facebook said it was simplifying and centralizing privacy settings, making it easier for its more than two billion users to change how much personal information they share. That was an important and necessary change, but what we have learned about the data collection practices of social media firms, advertisers, political campaigns, online publishers and other groups suggests that company-specific changes like Facebook’s will be insufficient. What is needed is for Congress to adopt rigorous and comprehensive privacy laws.