At long last, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has broken his silence regarding the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal that has been active for several days. Almost as if to prove how close he is to the situation, Zuckerberg created a detailed timeline of events.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on his own page (opens in new tab). “I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again.”
Zuckerberg then goes on to detail the events leading to this PR and security disaster, starting with how Facebook used to allow users to share their friends’ profiles and information with third party apps as far back as 2007, a change that would be all but repealed in 2014. The Facebook head continues to describe Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan’s Facebook personality quiz app released in 2013.
Facebook’s chief then admits to having been informed by The Guardian in 2015 that Kogan had shared the data of 50 million Facebook users, which he had obtained through said Facebook quiz, with political strategy firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook then forced the app to shutdown and for both parties to formally certify that the said data was deleted.
Finally, Zuckerberg claims to have just learned last week from several publications that this data was not deleted. In fact, said data was used by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as leverage to win the election.
Though Zuckerberg makes no mention of the data’s aforementioned use, it’s widely reported to have been a resource for the Trump campaign.
“This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote. “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.”
Preventative measures taken, crucial words unspoken
The Facebook chief then goes on to promise change to its platform as a result of this breach. First, the company plans to investigate all apps that have or have had access to large amounts of information before Facebook flipped the switch in 2014. The social network also plans to ban any app maker that does not agree to a full audit and informing its users should a violation be found.
Facebook has also promised to limit developers’ access to user data if said user hasn’t used the app within three months, as well as reduce the amount of data given to an app when a user signs up to just name, profile photo and email address. If developers want to get deeper access to information, then a contract with each user will have to be signed to allow them to do so.
Finally, within the next month Facebook will feature each users’ app data permissions prominently above the News Feed. This was already a function of the Settings tools within Facebook, but never have they been placed so blatantly on the app's front page.
These are all welcome changes and refreshing transparency, but the negligence to recognize what this breached data was used for and the implications it may have had on global political discourse isn’t lost on us. Facebook promises to have more information on its swathe of privacy-focused changes ‘in the next few days.’