Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday broke his silence on the Cambridge Analytica debacle that has unfolded over the past week, admitting “we made mistakes”. He vowed to step up to the plate when it comes to delivering better data security to Facebook users.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg said in a statement on Facebook. “I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”
The statement comes on the heels of Facebook last week revealing that since 2015 a third party application had handed over the data of up to 50 million platform users to Cambridge Analytica – a consulting group that has worked on several high-profile political campaigns, including that of President Donald Trump’s.
Zuckerberg maintained in his statement that he had no knowledge that Cambridge Analytica still had the users’ data after banning the app from Facebook’s platform in 2015: “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.”
Moving forward, the CEO said he would take several steps to prevent malicious actors from accessing platform users’ information:
-Facebook will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before it changed its platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity.
-Facebook will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. “For example, we will remove developers’ access to your data if you haven’t used their app in 3 months… We’ll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data,” said Zuckerberg.
-Facebook will show users a tool at the top of their News Feed with the apps they used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to their data.
In terms of regulating third-party app developers, “we will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well,” said Zuckerberg.
Facebook continues to face intensified pressure and legal action as the security industry questions its policies around data privacy. Moving forward, the company is “at a crossroads” about the next steps to take, Tom Galvin, Executive Director of the Digital Citizens Alliance, said via email.
Galvin said Facebook needs to stick to its commitment “to greater investment in a diverse workforce that can monitor online content to determine whether it’s illegal or inappropriate.”
“Facebook is at a crossroads because of its inability – nearly a year-and-a-half after the election – to get a handle on its divisive effects on society,” said Galvin in an email. “From spreading fake and manipulative information to becoming a ‘Dark Web-like’ place for illicit commerce, Facebook seems to losing the trust of the American public. Regulation will not be far behind for social media companies if things don’t change.”
Zuckerberg said that in the next few days, “we’ll have more changes to share.”