Mark Zuckerberg spent ample time talking about his startup roots during his testimony before Congress last week, but when it came to addressing the startup community as a whole–and to what extent the Cambridge Analytica scandal involved small businesses–he was tight lipped. Indeed, over the course of the Facebook CEO’s two-day, nearly ten-hour testimony before two different congressional committees, transcripts reveal that the term ‘small business’ was uttered a grand total of just seven times.
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY,) the ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business, says that’s a problem–and she’s demanding Zuckerberg address it. On Wednesday, the Congresswoman sent a letter to the Facebook founder, urging him to address small business owners’ concerns vis-à-vis the data breach, and to support them in the aftermath if their data was compromised.
“We received the letter and are currently reviewing the details,” a spokesperson for the company tells Inc. “Our teams are dedicated to the more than 70 million small businesses that use Facebook to grow.”
Last month, it was revealed that the political data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested information from more than 87 million Facebook users, which it used to create psychological profiles and allegedly handed over to the Trump campaign in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election. Velázquez says Zuckerberg should disclose just how much business’ data–as well as their customers’ information–may have been compromised in the breach.
“In today’s market, almost all small businesses must use social media platforms like Facebook to stay competitive and reach customers, which is why the recent Cambridge Analytica cybersecurity breach is alarming for entrepreneurs as well as individuals,” Velázquez said in an emailed statement to Inc. “Facebook must be held accountable to the Main Street small businesses who trusted [it.]”
Velázquez is not a member of the House committee that questioned Zuckerberg, and therefore was not present to ask him directly. But she is adamant that the founder shouldn’t ignore this community. “The scope of this data breach requires more assistance for small business owners,” she writes in the letter. “Most do not have the staff or financial resources to become experts in cyber security and identify how they or their customers have been impacted.”
Additionally, the letter suggests companies may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage compared with larger ones, as a result of the breach. “The availability of social media for small business owners is inextricably linked to the well-being of the company and their customer base,” the letter continues. “Not only will the data breach lead to a mistrust by the public, it could result in guilt by association for those small companies using the platform.”
To be sure, Zuckerberg did allude to business owners’ use of Facebook during his testimony–albeit indirectly. In response to a question last Wednesday from Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) about reducing the use of consumer data for ad-targeting, the Facebook founder said that such a move could make it more expensive for small business owners to reach the same amount of users. “Targeting helps small businesses be able to afford and reach people as effectively as big companies have typically had the ability to do for a long time,” he said. Indeed, that’s the heart of the matter, suggests Velázquez. Small businesses want to use Facebook. The question is, does Facebook want to keep them?