Zuckerberg admits Facebook mistakes amid Cambridge Analytica fallout
Zuckerberg admits Facebook mistakes amid Cambridge Analytica fallout

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg finally commented publicly on March 21 on his Facebook page about the Cambridge Analytica controversy, in which he admitted “mistakes” were made, and acknowledged his company's “responsibility to protect your data,” and that a “breach of trust” occurred regarding that role.

Zuckerberg pointed to a “breach of trust” between Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan (who developed a Facebook quiz app in 2013), Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. 

“I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again,” wrote Zuckerberg, stating that Facebook learned from reporters in 2015 that Kogan shared user data without people's consent, which was against the company's policies. Kogan was subsequently banned. Last week several media outlets informed Facebook that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified, according to Zuckerberg.

Meanwhile, U.S. senators and representatives of both political parties are demanding answers about Facebook's data practices and whether Cambridge Analytica, which had been doing voter research on behalf of President Trump's campaign, usurped data from 50 million Facebook accounts.  

Zuckerberg didn't indicate whether he will be among the management to face grilling from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence committees, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, as well as the House and Senate Judiciary committees. However, Christopher Wylie, an ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica and the whistleblower about his former employer's practices, is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

What role Facebook unwittingly played in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election had been already called into question with the recent revelations that Russians had opened advertising accounts on the platform to sway voters against Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump. 

Since March 16, Facebook's NASDAQ per-share stock price has dropped from $185.09 to $168.15, losing nearly $50 billion of market value, and the outcry has resulted in a trending hashtag: #deleteFacebook.

Facebook has already been losing users,” commented Tom Galvin, executive director of Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) to SC regarding the #deletefacebook movement, which he believes partly began because of changes it made in reaction to the 2016 election to de-emphasize viral videos. 

Younger Facebook users are migrating to Snapchat and other platforms, Galvin noted. “Whether they lose more users permanent due to trust issues will be based on how they address this current crisis.”

A DCA survey of 925 Americans conducted between March 15-20 found that almost 4 out of 10 respondents (39 percent) said: “Facebook is not a responsible company because it puts making profits most of the time ahead of trying to do the right thing.” 

A new website Secured.fyi compares social media alternatives to Facebook. These platforms “won't change the outcomes of elections, or perform mass surveillance on its users,” promised Fredrik Aurdal, the site's founder.

The DCA survey also found:

• 31 percent viewed Facebook as a “responsible company because it tries to do the right thing most of the time even if that gets in the way of it making profits.” The rest were unsure.

• By a 7:1 ratio (54 percent to 8 percent), Americans say that Facebook has had a negative influence on political discourse.

 • 61 percent said that “Facebook has damaged American politics and made it more negative by enabling manipulation and falsehoods that polarize people.”

• By a 2:1 margin (53 percent to 26 percent), Americans said it's Facebook's responsibility to remove or warn about posts that contain false or misleading information.

• 59 percent reported that the company is not doing enough to address the issues of false and inflammatory information that appear on its site.

The Cambridge Analytica revelations, commented Morten Brøgger, CEO of secure-work collaboration platform Wire, suggest that many well-known businesses depend on exploiting sensitive data at scale, drawing on personal information to support their growth.

“Individuals and organizations must ensure they are working with companies that refuse to sell, mishandle or abuse data,” he said. “Instead, they should opt for trustworthy partners – those that are open source, independently audited and end-to-end encrypted.”