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How will Facebook guard user data? Mark Zuckerberg outlines steps after Cambridge Analytica episode

Reducing information access, conducting audits and investigating apps were among the steps Mark Zuckerberg wrote about in his first public response to the crisis over Cambridge Analytica’s alleged misuse of Facebook user data.

tech Updated: Mar 22, 2018 12:08 IST
Sarah Frier
Sarah Frier
Bloomberg
Facebook,Mark Zuckerberg,Cambridge Analytica
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at an event in Chicago. The world’s largest social media network is facing growing scrutiny in Europe and the US over allegations that a London-based firm improperly accessed user data to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect Donald Trump in 2016.(AP File Photo)

Facebook Inc. chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg outlined some concrete steps the social network will take to protect user data, his first public response to the crisis over Cambridge Analytica’s access to information from the platform.

He said the company will do three things:

Investigate all large apps that were allowed to get data not just on their own users, but on those users’ friends, before Facebook changed its policies in 2014, and ban any developers that don’t agree to an audit. The company will tell affected users if they find problems. Remove developer access to data if someone hasn’t used that app in 3 months, and reduce the type of information the app gets when users sign in. Work to make sure people understand who has access to their data, showing everyone a tool at the top of the News Feed in the next month, and making it easy to revoke permissions.

Zuckerberg laid out the timeline of events leading up to the current predicament, explaining what Facebook knew and when about Cambridge Analytica’s access to the data of 50 million users. The co-founder also said Facebook still hasn’t independently confirmed reports from news organizations over the weekend that kicked off the controversy.

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

Zuckerberg said that the most important solution to the problem -- preventing developers from getting access to information on their user’s friends -- was resolved in 2014. He addressed the public via an appearance on CNN on Wednesday evening, in a move intended to reach a broad audience of people, not just on Facebook. In the past, he has mostly addressed the company’s problems via videos or posts on his profile page.

“We are glad to hear Zuckerberg finally address this issue sooner rather than later as this uncertainty has been a major overhang on Facebook shares,” Daniel Ives, the head of technology research at GBH, wrote in a note to investors following the executive posts. “While this Cambridge situation will remain a dark cloud over the Facebook name in the near term, breaking his silence and the actions outlined in his blog post should help users, advertisers, and investors feel more comfortable that Facebook and Zuckerberg are starting to get their arms around this issue.”

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg also weighed in on the social network’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, arguably striking a more penitent tone than Zuckerberg.

“I deeply regret that we didn’t do enough to deal with it,” Sandberg wrote. She reiterated steps outlined by Zuckerberg and referred readers to his post.

First Published: Mar 22, 2018 09:50 IST