Senator Grills Zuckerberg on Tool ‘Tracking Users Across Internet’

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, was grilled on a tool, Centra, allegedly “tracking users across the entire internet”

2 min read
File image of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerber, who was grilled on a secret tool called Centra, allegedly “tracking users across the entire internet”.

At the Senate Committee hearing on Tuesday, 17 November, a Republican lawmaker quizzed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a secretive tracking software that he alleged is used to track users “across the entire internet.”

Zuckerberg, however, denied knowledge of such a software but was grilled further on the issue with Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, going on to ask “how many accounts in the United States have been subject to review and shut down through Centra?”

The grilling was part of the four-and-a-half-hour-long hearing on Tuesday, conducted by the US Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Republican senator Lindsey Graham, and came just three weeks after a hearing of the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google on largely similar issues conducted by the Senate Commerce Committee.

The Committee, comprising 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats, also includes Vice President-elect Kamal Harris. Harris, however, was not present at the hearing.


Zuckerberg Gets Grilled on Centra Tool

“Mr Zuckerberg, tell me about Centra. What is the Facebook internal tool called Centra?” Hawley asked

“Senator, I’m not aware of any tool by that name,” Zuckerberg replied. The grilling had already become tense after Hawley had earlier asked him about an internal tool called Tasks” which, he alleged, was used to coordinate with Google and Twitter to censor conservative voices across platforms.

Hawley then went on to say, “Centra is a tool that Facebook uses to tracks its users not just on Facebook but across the entire internet.”

“Centra tracks different profiles that a user visits, their message recipients, their linked accounts, the pages they visit around the web that have Facebook buttons,” Hawley added.

“Centra also uses behavioral data to monitor users’ accounts even if those accounts are registered under a different name — and you can see a screenshot provided to us of the Centra platform.”

When asked how many accounts in the United States have been subject to review and shut down through Centra, Zuckerberg responded saying he wasn’t familiar with the name of that tool. “I’m sure that we have tools that help us with our platform and community integrity work, but I am not familiar with that name,” the Facebook CEO said.

“Do you have a tool that does exactly what I described and that you can see here over my shoulder, or are you saying that that doesn’t exist?” Hawley asked, further grilling Zuckerberg on the issue.

“Senator, I’m saying that I’m not familiar with it and that I’d be happy to follow up and get you and your team the information that you would like on this,” Zuckerberg replied.


Centra Used for Tracking Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour

According to Emily Birnbaum, a US-based reporter, Facebook issued a clarification to her saying that the Centra “is used to aid investigations into subjects like coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Hawley, retweeting Birnbaum’s tweet and commented: “Interesting that @Facebook officials can now remember Centra — Zuckerberg told me not one hour ago, under oath, that he didn’t know of any tool or platform by that name and seemed to be suffering terrible amnesia.”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!