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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Addresses Fallout From Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook has finally apologized for the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took center stage to address the fallout, while outlining the social media giant’s plans moving forward.

London-based consultancy Cambridge Analytica misused data from 50 million Facebook users and many users were left wondering just when and how Facebook’s CEO would respond in light of the scandal that rocked the social media and internet marketing industry this week.

Zuckerberg said Facebook will “investigate” all apps that have access to large amounts of data, and restrict developers’ data access even further, he wrote in a post on his official Facebook page.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg said on March 21st, his first public comments on the matter. “I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

According to Facebook, the data was originally collected by a Cambridge lecturer named Aleksandr Kogan for a personality quiz app. He collected the data legitimately, but then violated Facebook’s terms by passing the information to Cambridge Analytica and Facebook had originally discovered the infraction in 2015 but failed to inform the public.

Zuckerberg said Wednesday that Kogan’s app was installed by 300,000 people. That gave Kogan access to their friends’ data, too, affecting tens of millions of users and, according to the New York Times, it could be as much as 50 million people.

“This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”

Facebook has come under fire from lawmakers calling for Zuckerberg to answer for Facebook’s actions.

Zuckerberg has since said he would be open to government regulation related to ad transparency., saying “I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” while adding that he’d consider testifying before Congress, if he was the person at Facebook with the most information about the topic in question. Senators such as Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner, have called for Zuckerberg to testify.

Here are some highlights of various interviews Zuckerberg has given in the past few days, courtesy of The Verge:

  • He told multiple outlets that he would be willing to testify before Congress.
  • He said the company would notify everyone whose data was improperly used.
  • He told CNN he did not totally oppose regulation. “I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” he said. “There are things like ad transparency regulation that I would love to see.”
  • He expressed regret for not investigating further when Cambridge Analytica’s deception had first come to light in 2015. “I think this was clearly a mistake in retrospect,” Zuckerberg told CNN. “We need to make sure we don’t make that mistake ever again.”
  • He expressed confidence Facebook could be protected from bad actors ahead of the midterm elections. “This isn’t rocket science. There’s a lot of hard work we have to do to make it harder for nation-states like Russia to do election interference,” he told CNN. “But we can get in front of this.”
  • He told The New York Times that Facebook would double its security force this year, adding: “We’ll have more than 20,000 people working on security and community operations by the end of the year, I think we have about 15,000 now.”
  • He told the Times that the company had deployed unspecified new artificial intelligence to fight bad actors in the recent Alabama Senate election: “In last year, in 2017 with the special election in Alabama, we deployed some new A.I. tools to identify fake accounts and false news, and we found a significant number of Macedonian accounts that were trying to spread false news, and were able to eliminate those. And that, actually, is something I haven’t talked about publicly before, so you’re the first people I’m telling about that.”
  • He expressed regret for building a platform API that was vulnerable to abuse of the kind committed by Cambridge Analytica. “There was this values tension playing out between the value of data portability — being able to take your data and some social data, the ability to create new experiences — on one hand, and privacy on the other hand,” he toldRecode. “I was maybe too idealistic on the side of data portability, that it would create more good experiences — and it created some — but I think what the clear feedback was from our community was that people value privacy a lot more.”
  • He told the Times that Facebook would investigate “thousands” of apps to determine whether they had abused their access to user data.
  • He further told the Times that a “meaningful number of people” had not deleted their accounts in the wake of the controversy: “I don’t think we’ve seen a meaningful number of people act on that, but, you know, it’s not good. I think it’s a clear signal that this is a major trust issue for people, and I understand that. And whether people delete their app over it or just don’t feel good about using Facebook, that’s a big issue that I think we have a responsibility to rectify.”
  • Asked about content moderation, he told this to Recode: “[The] thing is like, ‘Where’s the line on hate speech?’ I mean, who chose me to be the person that did that?,” Zuckerberg said. “I guess I have to, because of where we are now, but I’d rather not.”
  • Facebook didn’t announce all the new restrictions to the platform today, Zuckerberg toldWired: “There are probably 15 changes that we’re making to the platform to further restrict data, and I didn’t list them all, because a lot of them are kind of nuanced and hard to explain—so I kind of tried to paint in broad strokes what the issues are, which were first, going forward, making sure developers can’t get access to this kind of data.”