Facebook-Cambridge Analytica row: Zuckerberg brings apology ads; updates

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in nine major British and US newspapers to apologise for the huge Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. 
Facebook's problems after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out refuse to fade. Now, the social media giant's founder and chief ececutive officer Mark Zuckerberg has issued a full-page advertisement in seven newspapers across the United Kingdom and three across the United States apologising for the data breach. "We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can't, we don't deserve it," he said. Meanwhile, the social media giant also dismissed claims of having collected users' text and call data without their consent. 

Amid the ongoing privacy scandal surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg, in the advertisement, reiterated that the social media platform had already stopped third-party apps from "getting so much information" and that Facebook had started "limiting the data apps get when you sign up", The Verge reported. Zuckerberg also clarified that Facebook users would now be aware of which apps had access to their information and which did not, so that they could make an informed decision.

The Facebook ads ran in prominent positions in British nationals, including the best-selling Wall Street Journal. The advertisement reflected the public statements Zuckerberg made last week after the Cambridge Analytica data breach row prompted investigations in Europe and the US, and sent Facebook's share price plunging. 

Last week, Zuckerberg had admitted that Facebook made mistakes over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and said that the social media giant needed to 'step up'. Zuckerberg had also listed out steps the social media giant was taking to better secure users' data. 

Here are the top 10 developments surrounding the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal and Mark Zuckerberg's attempts to douse the fire:

1) Zuckerberg runs full-page apology ads in UK and US papers: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in at least nine major British and US newspapers to apologise for the huge Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. "We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can't we don't deserve it," the Facebook chief said.  

The ads ran in prominent positions in British nationals, including the best-selling Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Times and The Observer -- which helped break the story -- as well as the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. 

2) Facebook denies collecting users' call, text data without consent: Amid the Cambridge Analytica controversy engulfing Facebook, the social media giant has dismissed claims of having collected users' text and call data without their consent. So, when does the company collect such data? In a press note, Facebook argued that user data is collected only from those users who have given permission for the doing same. The company added that the feature could be disabled at any point in time.   

"You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people's call and SMS (text) history without their permission. This is not the case. Your information is securely stored and we do not sell this information to third parties. You are always in control of the information you share with Facebook," the company clarified.

3) Facebook says user data collected only from those who permit: Facebook argued that user data is collected only from those users who have given permission for the doing same. "Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android. This helps you find and stay connected with the people you care about, and provides you with a better experience across Facebook. People have to expressly agree to use this feature," the Facebook press note said, adding, "If, at any time, they no longer wish to use this feature they can turn it off in settings, or here for Facebook Lite users, and all previously shared call and text history shared via that app is deleted. While we receive certain permissions from Android, uploading this information has always been opt-in only."   

4) Facebook says feature can be disabled at any point: Aiming to put users at ease after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook explained that at any point, a user who no longer wished to upload information could easily turn the feature off. The user could also turn off continuous call and text history logging while keeping contact uploading enabled.  

5) University researcher leaked data: In the ads seeking to address the damage done by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg explained that there was 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. 

6) Zuckerberg says rules have been changed to prevent another leak: Zuckerberg repeated that Facebook had changed the rules on apps so that 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, adding, "And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected."   

7) Cambridge Analytica's name finds no mention: In the Facebook advertisement, 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 Alexsandr Kogan for any potential breach of data rules. 

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 says he passed this to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge. 

Kogan says he is being made a scapegoat.

8) Facebook logs texts and calls data? A number of Facebook users have discovered that the social media giant holds far more information about them than they expect. Facebook holds data of complete logs of incoming and outgoing calls and SMS messages, reports The Guardian.  

According to The Guardian, Facebook makes it difficult for users to delete their accounts. Instead, it pushes them towards "deactivation" of their account, which eventually leaves all personal data on the company's servers. "The most important part of apps and services that help you make connections is to make it easy to find the people you want to connect with. So, the first time you sign in on your phone to a messaging or social app, it's a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone contacts," The Guardian quoted a statement from Facebook's spokesperson. "Contact uploading is optional. People are expressly asked if they want to give permission to upload their contacts from their phone - it's explained right there in the apps when you get started. People can delete previously uploaded information at any time and can find all the information available to them in their account and activity log from our Download Your Information tool," the statement adds. 

The Guardian further reports that Messenger for Android asks for permissions to read call and SMS logs for a similar purpose. The company notes that users can stop continuously uploading contacts and delete all their previously uploaded contacts by turning off the continuous uploading setting in the Messenger app. Permanently deleting a Facebook account will also result in contacts no longer being uploaded and all previously uploaded contacts being deleted.

9) Apple's Tim Cook calls for well-crafted privacy regulations: Amid the ongoing controversy surrounding an alleged Facebook data breach, Apple CEO Tim Cook called for well-crafted privacy regulations to be established. As per a report that appeared in The Verge, the Apple Chief, who had attended the China Development Forum, opined that technology companies should create and follow guidelines which specify how they can use customer data.  

Furthermore, Cook had reportedly stated that the ability of anyone to know what a user has been browsing about for years, their contacts and other personal data should not exist in the first place. 

10) UK regulators probe Cambridge Analytica offices: British regulators on Friday began searching the London offices of Cambridge Analytica (CA), the scandal-hit communications firm at the heart of the Facebook data scandal, shortly after a judge approved a search warrant. 

Around 18 enforcement agents from the office of Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham entered the company's London headquarters at around 1:30 am IST to execute the warrant. 

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel