If you want to leave Facebook, what’s your alternative? Who else offers what it does â€” the social platform used by around one quarter of the world’s population?
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg seemed slightly bewildered by this question, posed by Senator Lindsey Graham at a hearing in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
The CEO pointed to other technology giants â€” Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft â€” but while their services overlap, they don’t match Facebook, data point for data point.
Mr Zuckerberg’s two appearances on Capitol Hill, prompted by the ongoing Cambridge Analytica data scandal, felt like high political theatre.
Senators and congressmen enjoyed their moment in front of the camera, but few successfully pierced Mr Zuckerberg’s well-studied calm or made him sweat in what the New York Times has called his “sorry” suit.
And yet US politicians seemed itching to do something. But what?
The apparent willingness to regulate is significant, said David Carroll, an associate professor of media design at Parsons School of Design in New York.
An avid watcher of social data practices, Professor Carroll has been in a high-profile battle to get his data from Cambridge Analytica.
“Republicans and Democrats alike are acknowledging that [regulation is] inevitable,” he added.
“Privacy is one of the very few issues that has bipartisan appeal to the American public.”
Remarkable too, he suggested, were the favourable mentions of European privacy law by US lawmakers. In May, the European Union will introduce stringent new data protection laws.
“[It] is an acknowledgement that there are superior models out there that they are seriously considering,” he said.
Still, it is a little “terrifying” that US lawmakers are likely to write the rules curtailing Facebook’s data habits, suggested Tama Leaver, an associate professor in internet studies at Curtin University.
Many senators and congressmen displayed a lack of understanding of the technology, he suggested, and to date, they have been very hands off. That may change.
“Both sides of politics are feeling that Facebook is a tool that will have, and has had, significant influence over elections,” he said.
“The appetite from lawmakers to change this is much, much riper.”
While Mr Zuckerberg said regulation is “inevitable”, his prepared talking points, revealed in an opportune Associated Press photo, suggested questions of monopoly would be unwelcome.
“His talking point on anti-trust was that American companies have to be big to compete with China â€” [that was] the key zinger that was developed,” Professor Carroll suggested.
Lina Khan, director of legal policy with the Open Markets Institute in Washington DC, which researches competition policy, said this line of questioning from lawmakers was significant.
“This is not fire-breathing populists, this is even mainstream Republicans,” she said.
Nevertheless, regulating Facebook using American antitrust law may be a challenge, given it often focuses on harm to consumers based on price â€” and Facebook is free, of course.
“That’s definitely a dominant interpretation of the law,” Ms Khan said. “But that’s not everything.”
You could also examine how a company wields its power over entities that are dependent on it, such as advertisers, or how consumer are harmed outside of higher prices.
“There are privacy effects,” she added. “[Customer] data is being collected to a massive degree because Facebook is able to collect data even when you’re not on Facebook’s properties. These are all fair game.”
Spinning off products it has bought, such as Instagram, WhatsApp or even its virtual reality start-up Oculus Rift, could be one way to “inoculate” the company from complaints based on concentrated market power, Professor Carroll suggested.
Such a move could show Facebook is serious about addressing its structural issues, instead of simply promising to wield its power more responsibly, Ms Khan said.
Australia is also looking at this issue: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched an inquiry into digital platform providers such as Facebook and Google, and their effect on media and advertising competition.
One big question remains: Can politicians properly regulate a platform like Facebook if they’re addicted to it themselves?
Professor Carroll pointed out that Facebook is seen as a global conduit of American soft power.
And as USA Today reported, the company has also made healthy contributions to some of the US lawmakers who faced Mr Zuckerberg this week.
Perhaps most importantly, political parties around the world are also increasingly making use of Facebook’s targeting tools to reach voters.
“A lot of these politicians may feel that they rely on Facebook to get re-elected,” Professor Carroll said.
“It’s very troubling to see how the voter analytics data industry is just so inherently poisonous, because it poisons the lawmakers who are supposed to keep everything accountable.”
Ultimately, although Mr Zuckerberg emerged largely unscathed from his high-pressure political appearances, the Cambridge Analytica revelations have crystallised many peoples’ nervousness about Facebook’s business model.
The idea of shadow profiles, for example â€” that Facebook also collects information about people who don’t use Facebook â€” is now irrevocably part of the public consciousness.