Breaking more than four days of silence, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm.
Zuckerberg said Wednesday that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data and if it fails, “we don’t deserve to serve you.”
Zuckerberg and Facebook’s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, have been quiet since news broke Friday that Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections.
Facebook has already taken the most important steps to prevent such a situation from happening again, Zuckerberg said. For example, in 2014, it reduced access outside apps had to user data. However, some of the measures didn’t take effect until a year later, allowing Cambridge to access the data in the intervening months.
Zuckerberg acknowledges that there is more the company needs to do.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said it will ban developers who don’t agree to an audit. An app’s developer will no longer have access to data from people who haven’t used that app in three months. Data will also be generally limited to user names, profile photos and email, unless the develop signs a contract with Facebook and gets user approval.
In addition to issuing his statement, Zuckerberg is slated to sit down with CNN’s Laurie Segall for an interview to air on Anderson Cooper 360 at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday.
In a separate post, Facebook said it will inform people whose data was misused by apps. Facebook first learned of this breach of privacy more than two years ago, but hadn’t mentioned it publicly until Friday.
The company said it was “building a way” for people to know if their data was accessed by “This Is Your Digital Life,” the psychological-profiling quiz app that researcher Aleksandr Kogan created and paid about 270,000 people to take part in.
Cambridge Analytica later obtained information from the app for about 50 million Facebook users, as the app also vacuumed up data on people’s friends — including those who never downloaded the app or gave explicit consent.
Chris Wylie, a Cambridge co-founder who left in 2014, has said one of the firm’s goals was to influence people’s perceptions by injecting content, some misleading or false, all around them. It’s not clear whether Facebook would be able to tell users whether they had seen such content.
Cambridge has shifted the blame to Kogan, which the firm described as a contractor. Kogan described himself as a scapegoat.
Kogan, a psychology researcher at Cambridge University, told the BBC that both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have tried to place the blame on him, even though the firm ensured him that everything he did was legal.
“One of the great mistakes I did here was I just didn’t ask enough questions,” he said. “I had never done a commercial project. I didn’t really have any reason to doubt their sincerity. That’s certainly something I strongly regret now.”
He said the firm paid some $800,000 US for the work, but it went to participants in the survey.
“My motivation was to get a dataset I could do research on,” he said. “I have never profited from this in any way personally.”
Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating. Canada’s privacy commissioner said he’s asked Facebook to confirm “whether the personal information of Facebook users in Canada was affected.”
After two days of declines, shares of Facebook finished Wednesday with a gain. The stock was up $1.24, or 0.7 per cent, to finish at $169.39 US on Nasdaq. Last Friday, the stock was worth just over $185 US.