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Zuckerberg testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Average users of Facebook's platform have a hard time understanding how Facebook uses its data, according to a new Omnibus study commissioned by Digital Content Next.

Why it matters: Privacy literacy proved to be a major topic of discussion during Senate and House Facebook hearings this week, with lawmakers telling CEO Mark Zuckerberg he needs to put questions about access to data in "pedestrian language."

  • Less than half (47%) of respondents say they expect Facebook to track a person’s browsing across the web in order to make ads more targeted, according to the study.
  • A little more than half (56%) of respondents expect Facebook to collect data about a person’s activities on Facebook.
  • Roughly a third (39%) of respondents expect Facebook to track a person's usage of apps that Facebook does not own in order to make ads more targeted.

Members of Congress zeroed in on this idea, grilling Zuckerberg about how hard it is to find, understand and adjust privacy settings on the platform.

  • "Right now I am not convinced that Facebook's users have the information that they need to make meaningful choices," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
  • Events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal have "exposed that consumers may not fully understand or appreciate the extent to which their data is collected, protected, transferred, used and misused," said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
  • "You have to inform people in pedestrian language what you have to do with your data," said Rep. Anne Eshoo (D-CA).

Facebook has recently taken steps to make their privacy settings more understandable.

  • It updated its terms of service two weeks ago — the first significant update since 2015 — to make its commitment to user privacy more explicit.
  • It also announced an overhaul of its data policy to better define what data it collects and how it is used, as well as making the privacy tools easier to find.

Privacy literacy is not just a Facebook problem. According to the latest privacy study by Pew Research Center, some 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints, but "many say they would like to do more or are unaware of tools they could use."

Go deeper: So how does one become more privacy literate? Mozilla's Internet Health Report provides some good starting points in "pedestrian language."

Go deeper

Lawmakers call for Israel-Hamas ceasefire amid aerial bombardments

Combination images of Republican Sen. Todd Young and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy. Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images/Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and 28 Senate Democrats on Sunday called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as fighting continued into the night.

Driving the news: Young, a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, joined panel Chair Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in a bipartisan statement saying: "Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas' rocket attacks, in a manner proportionate with the threat its citizens are facing.

Bill Gates faces scrutiny over relationship with Microsoft employee, Epstein ties

Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

AT&T in talks with Discovery to combine media assets

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AT&T is in talks with media giant Discovery about merging its media assets, like CNN, TBS and TNT, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: A potential merger could allow AT&T and Discovery to better compete with entertainment giants like Disney and Netflix in the video streaming wars.