Facebook chief takes out ads to apologise for data scam

News Source: Dawn

LONDON: Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in nine major British and US newspapers on Sunday to apologise for a huge data privacy scandal.

“We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t we don’t deserve it,” he said.

The ads, plain black text apology on a white background with only a tiny Facebook logo, ran in prominent positions in six British nationals, including the best-selling Mail on SundayThe Sunday Times and The Observer — which helped break the story — as well as the New York TimesWashington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The world’s largest social media network is facing growing government scrutiny in Europe and the United States after allegations by a whistleblower that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users’ information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016.

Mr Zuckerberg explained that the data was gathered through a quiz developed by a university researcher “that leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014”.

“This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The ad reflects public statements Mr Zuckerberg made last week after the row prompted investigations in Europe and the United States, and sent Facebook’s share price plunging.

He repeated that the social media giant had changed the rules on apps so no such data breach could happen again.

“We’re also investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others,” he wrote.

“And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected,” he added.

There was no mention of the British firm accused of using the data, Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

It too has blamed the University of Cambridge researcher Aleksandr Kogan, for any potential breach of data rules Mr Kogan created a lifestyle quiz app for Facebook which was downloaded by 270,000 people, but allowed access to tens of millions of their contacts.

Facebook claimed he passed this to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge.

Mr Kogan said he was being made a scapegoat. According to Cambridge Analytica, it initially believed the data had been obtained in line with data protection laws, and later deleted it at Facebook’s request. The consultancy said that it did not use the data in work it did for the 2016 US election.

Advertisers Mozilla and German bank Commerzbank have suspended ads on the service and the hashtag #DeleteFacebook has been trending online. While, electric carmaker Tesla Inc and its rocket company SpaceX’s Facebook pages – each with more than 2.6 million followers – were deleted after Chief Executive Elon Musk promised to do so.

Mr Zuckerberg’s firm has lost more than $50 billion in market value since the allegations. He promised that Facebook would give its users more information and control about who can access their data.

“Thank you for believing in this community. I promise to do better for you,” he wrote.

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