Facebook’s Zuckerberg: ‘We Need to Step Up’ to Protect User Data  

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has released a statement about the social network’s part in an illegal data collection scandal. 

“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 lengthy Facebook post. “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.”

Facebook disclosed on Friday that it has known since 2015 that British researcher Aleksandr Kogan illegally shared users’ information with a research firm, after collecting that data legally through an application for a personality quiz. The research firm is alleged to have illegally used the data of an estimated 50 million Facebook users to build profiles for U.S. political campaigns, including the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Facebook has been criticized for failing to alert its users to the incident in 2015. Wednesday was the first time Zuckerberg publicly addressed the issue.

Included in his statement was a timeline of events that said Facebook demanded in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica delete all improperly acquired data. He said last week he learned from news outlets that the company may not have deleted the data, despite providing certification of having done so. 

Cambridge Analytica has denied that it kept the data. One Facebook executive in charge of security is reportedly leaving the firm as a result the matter.

Zuckerberg said the incident amounted not only to a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook but also “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it.”

New safeguards

The Facebook founder outlined new precautions his social media platform will take to protect user data in future: identifying any other application developers found to have misused personal data, restricting the types of data available to developers, and ending their access to a user’s data if the user has not used the app in the past three months. He also said Facebook will make it easier for users to revoke apps’ permission to use their data, by putting the tool at the top of a user’s news feed.

Within an hour of its posting, Zuckerberg’s message had garnered more than 32,000 “likes” or other reactions and had been shared more than 10,000 times. User comments varied from fan club-style expressions of support to bitter complaints about Zuckerberg’s failure to speak sooner.

While controversy has swirled, Facebook’s stock value has taken a significant hit. The company has lost more than $45 billion of its stock market value over the past three days. 

Questions about regulation

The probe over Cambridge Analytica is just the latest flashpoint around Facebook’s role in the 2016 election and comes as the company faces questions about how it should be regulated and monitored going forward.

With its more than 2 billion monthly users and billions of dollars in profit, Facebook has become a powerful conduit of news, opinion and propaganda, much of it targeted at individuals based on their own data. The social media site and investigators have found that Russia-backed operatives had used Facebook to spread disinformation and propaganda. 

In recent months, the company, along with YouTube and Twitter, has changed some of its practices to reduce the power of automated accounts and propaganda.  Facebook has said it would hire 10,000 security employees.