Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced a questioning from the US Senate, most of which revolved around allegations that Facebook was silencing conservative voices in the presidential election fallout.
But one of the more interesting moments of the hearing last week was when Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri asked Zuckerberg about Centra, the tool he said Facebook used to track its online users.
Fox News broadcaster Tucker Carlson, who reported the dialogue that took place between Senator Josh Hawley and Zuckerberg about Sentra, said that Zuckerberg evaded answering Senator Hawley's question about the number of accounts that were analyzed and suspended by the Centra tool in the United States. .
The company director said, "I do not know, Senator, because the name of this tool is strange to me. I am sure that we have tracking tools that allow us to work on our platform, but this name is unknown to me."
Carlson expressed his doubts about the Facebook founder's sincerity, noting that the company’s spokesperson recently admitted that Sentra does exist and is used to "facilitate investigations into complex issues such as coordinated or improper behavior."
A @Facebook whistleblower tells me it's called Centra.
Zuck said he couldn't recall the name… he's only the company CEO, after all pic.twitter.com/DLkQ46MiR4
- Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) November 17, 2020
How does Sentra work?
Senator Hawley shared a picture of the alleged tool on Twitter, which he says he obtained from a Facebook informant, and the dashboard displays a set of data points that Facebook has about users.
Most importantly, it highlights the issue of users' inability to easily escape tracking the company even if they wanted to.
The panel showed that Facebook can record the user’s own activity on the device even if he has logged off Facebook, or switched accounts using the device’s identity number, such as the fixed identification number of a smartphone.
Meaning that if you create a new Instagram account with a different name and access it from your device, Facebook will be able to determine the identity of the device to identify that you are the same person who has the other account on Facebook.
When you log into Facebook on the web, the company drops a cookie called "DATR" that will track your activity even after you log out and for up to two years after that.
It has been previously reported that Facebook uses browser cookies to track people who have never created an account on Facebook, and to create "shadow cookies" for those who hope to create an account later.
And if you switch accounts or use a smartphone and laptop to log into different accounts and your browsing activity is not synced through them, the advertisers get much less information about you to target you with ads.
Fixed device ID numbers allow Facebook to record a user's activity even if they log out, delete the Facebook app, or use different web browsers.
Does Zuckerberg really not know about Sentra?
During the hearing, Zuckerberg said that he was not aware of Centra, but there is evidence confirming that the CEO's information in the field of privacy and information security is not simple, and that this tool is an important tool in Facebook's business strategy.
The first witness to Zuckerberg's knowledge of his company's tracking tools is his harsh criticism of Apple's update to iOS 14, which asks apps for permission before they can use the device ID.
Zuckerberg said the change could wipe out billions of revenue.
Apple has paused the change in order to give Facebook time to change its model.
3 things about this photo of Zuck:
Camera covered with tape
Mic jack covered with tape
Email client is Thunderbird pic.twitter.com/vdQlF7RjQt
- Chris Olson (@topherolson) June 21, 2016
The second witness, which is evidence of the founder of the largest social network in the world, is keen on his privacy, is a picture dating back to 2016, that is, before the outbreak of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when Twitter users circulated a picture showing Zuckerberg to his office with his computer behind him covering the camera and mic slots in it.
At that time, many users questioned the reason for this step and its effectiveness in preserving privacy, and some of them saw it as an exaggerated suspicion by Zuckerberg.
But whoever knows the personality of the founder of Facebook will make sure that Zuckerberg is not just a CEO who does the normal management work of the largest social media platform, but rather a technical expert who can easily know, understand and even use technical tools to maintain his privacy.