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Mark Zuckerberg: 'We Don't Deserve to Serve You' if Facebook Can't Protect User Data
Capital Markets, FinTech
Since news broke over the weekend that data had been stolen from roughly 50 million Facebook users by voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica – co-founded by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon – the social networking giant and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been embroiled in an unprecedented crisis that will likely not go away anytime soon.
However, despite a pubic uproar over the revelations, Zuckerberg had remained noticeably silent. That changed on Wednesday, when he addressed the data theft in a Facebook post – and then a round of interviews with the New York Times, CNN and others.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg said in his post on Facebook. “I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Zuckerberg then lays out a timeline in an effort to explain how the harvesting of user data happened, beginning in 2007 with the launch of the Facebook Platform that allowed people to log into their apps, sharing who their friends were and some info about these friends. In 2013 Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University researcher, created a personality quiz app that “was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends’ data,” Zuckerberg writes. “Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data.”
In 2014 Facebook changed its platform “to prevent abusive apps” and “to dramatically limit the data apps could access.” This meant that “apps like Kogan’s could no longer ask for data about a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app” and developers had “to get approval from us before they could request any sensitive data from people.”
In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. It is against our policies for developers to share data without people’s consent, so we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data. They provided these certifications.
Last week, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to confirm this. We’re also working with regulators as they investigate what happened.
This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.
What Zuckerberg’s Facebook post doesn’t do is actually offer an apology for what happened, as Gizmodo‘s Adam Clark Estes notes. (He later apologized in his interview with CNN.) Just as maddening, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine notes, Zuckerberg seems to paint Facebook as a victim in all of this.
Facebook has lost about $50 billion in market cap since the scandal broke.