Cambridge Analytica: CEO's apology may fail to contain FB shares' free fall

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph | Photo: Reuters
The Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal has rocked social media giant Facebook. CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday apologised to the platform's two billion users for a "major breach of trust". Zuckerberg also announced three steps that Facebook is taking to better protect user data, especially given the reports that Cambridge Analytica might still possess Facebook user data which it improperly obtained. The Facebook CEO also said that he was ready to testify before the US Congress. 

In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg said the social media giant had "a responsibility to protect" its users' data, adding that "if we can't, then we don't deserve to serve you". Referring to the storm that Facebook finds itself embroiled in over data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica using its users' data to influence elections, Zuckerberg said he was working towards understanding what exactly happened and how to prevent such data breaches in future.

"The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we had already taken years ago," said the Facebook CEO, adding, "But we also made mistakes, there's more to do, and we need to step up and do it." 

In his first public comments over the uproar caused by the harvesting of data of 50 million users by a British firm linked to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Zuckerberg also said that he was "happy" to answer questions about the scandal before the US Congress. In a CNN interview on Wednesday night, Zuckerberg said, "What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge. If that's me, then I am happy to go." 

Worried that your data might have also been caught up in Cambridge Analytica's net? Zuckerberg has also said that Facebook was planning to alert everyone whose data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica. He added that he wished that Facebook had not waited so long before telling people about the data breach. 

Zuckerberg also took personal responsibility in the matter. "I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I'm responsible for what happens on our platform," he wrote in his post, adding, "I'm serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn't change what happened in the past." 

Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook would learn from this experience "to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward". 

Here are the top 10 developments in Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal that has rocked Facebook: 

1) No sign of relief for Facebook shares: Shares of Facebook Inc fell 3 percent in premarket trading on Thursday as an apology from Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg did little to quell Wall Street nerves about how much a row over user data privacy will cost the company.

Zuckerberg on Wednesday promised tougher steps to restrict developers' access to user information, his first response to allegations that London-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data to build profiles on American voters and influence the 2016 presidential election.

Analysts from several brokerages expressed relief that there were no signs in Zuckerberg's status update on the row or in subsequent interviews of a more fundamental shift in the company's advertising-driven revenue model.

Facebook shares, however, have fallen for two of the last three days, knocking nearly $46 billion off its market value, and some analysts said it was clear the company would have to carry extra costs to shore up its reputation in the months ahead.

Technology stocks have fallen along with Facebook this week as investors worried the row was likely to lead to much tighter scrutiny of global platforms like Google, Twitter and Snapchat.

Open-source browser and app developer Mozilla said late on Wednesday it was suspending advertising on Facebook.

Amid the Facebook storm, US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to boast about his successful use of social media during his 2016 election campaign.

Remember when they were saying, during the campaign, that Donald Trump is giving great speeches and drawing big crowds, but he is spending much less money and not using social media as well as Crooked Hillary’s large and highly sophisticated staff. Well, not saying that anymore!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018

2) Facebook will investigate all apps that had access to information: Wondering what Facebook is doing to better secure your information after the Cambridge Analytica scandal? Zuckerberg's Facebook post listed out three measures the social media giant would be taking to better protect user data. Among them, the first is that Facebook will "investigate all apps with access to large amounts of information" before Facebook changed its "platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014".  

Further, Facebook will "conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity". Going further, Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook would "ban any developer" that "does not agree to a thorough audit" from the social media platform. 

"If we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps," said Zuckerberg. 

In short, if your Facebook data have been misused, and Facebook detects it during this "full audit", you will be notified.   

Zuckerberg said that people whose data Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University researcher who had shared data from his Facebook app with Cambridge Analytica, misused, would also be notified. To decode: If your data was scooped up by Cambridge Analytica, Facebook will inform you.  

3) Facebook will further restrict developers' data access: Facebook also appears to be looking to cut down the scale of the problem at the source itself, by limiting the data that can be accessed by apps and developers in the first place. The second step spelt out by Zuckerberg is that Facebook will "restrict developers' data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse". For example, the Facebook CEO said that the platform would "remove developers' access to your data if you haven't used their app in three months".   

Further, going forward, Facebook will reduce the data users give an app while signing in to only their name, profile photo, and email address. 

"We'll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data. And we'll have more changes to share in the next few days," he said. 

4) New Facebook tool for users to manage app's data access: The third and final step seeks to empower the user and ensure that they can, on their end, more easily manage which app has access to their data. Zuckerberg said that Facebook wants to make sure users understand which apps they have allowed to access their data. Next month, Facebook will provide a tool "at the top of the News Feed" that will show the apps a user has used and "an easy way to revoke those apps' permissions" to their data.  

"We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it," he said. 

5) Zuckerberg provides Cambridge Analytica scandal timeline and details: Wondering how Cambridge Analytica got their hands on Facebook users' data in the first place? Well, it didn't start with the firm, at first. 

Zuckerberg also provided a brief timeline of events in the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal. According to Zuckerberg, in 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app, which was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends' data. Zuckerberg explained that given the way the platform worked at the time, this meant Kogan was able to access "tens of millions of their friends' data".    

In 2015, Zuckerberg said, Facebook learned from The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg said that it is against Facebook's policies for developers to share data without people's consent, so it immediately banned Kogan's app from the platform and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica "formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data". Zuckerberg said that both parties "provided these certifications".

However, Zuckerberg revealed that last week, Facebook learned from The Guardian, The New York Times, and UK's Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica might "not have deleted the data as they had certified". Zuckerberg added that Facebook immediately banned Cambridge Analytica "from using any of its services". 

"Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to confirm this. We're also working with regulators as they investigate what happened," the Facebook CEO said.

6) Zuckerberg says 2014 rule change makes another Cambridge Analytica scandal impossible: Can a Cambridge Analytica-like data breach happen today? According to Zuckerberg, Facebook brought in changes in 2014, about an year after Kogan first got his hands on user data, to "prevent abusive apps". Zuckerberg said that Facebook changed "the entire platform to dramatically limit the data apps could access". 

"We already took the most important steps a few years ago in 2014 to prevent bad actors from accessing people's information in this way," said the Facebook CEO. 

According to Zuckerberg, had Kogan's app gone online after this change, its access to Facebook users' data would have been more limited. "Most importantly, apps like Kogan's could no longer ask for data about a person's friends unless their friends had also authorised the app," his post red. 

Zuckerberg added that Facebook also asked developers to obtain approval from it "before they could request any sensitive data from people". 

"These actions would prevent any app like Kogan's from being able to access so much data today," he said. 

7) Zuckerberg says sorry for 'major breach of trust': Facing pressure over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg apologised for a "major breach of trust" with two billion users of Facebook. "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," he wrote in his Facebook post that outlined the steps the social media giant would take to better protect data.

"...  It was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that," Zuckerberg wrote.  

8) Zuckerberg ready to testify before US Congress: Zuckerberg said he was ready to testify before the US Congress over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a media report. "The short answer is I'm happy to if it's the right thing to do," Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview on Wednesday night. "What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge. If that's me, then I am happy to go," he added.

Zuckerberg has never testified before a congressional committee. 

9) Modi govt warns Facebook: IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has warned Facebook of stringent actions if there was any attempt to influence the elections in the country. 

On Wednesday, Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad had a stern warning for Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. “It will not be tolerated. We have got stringent powers in the IT Act, including summoning you to India,” Prasad said.  

10) Facebook loses $50 billion in market value: Amid a global outrage against Facebook, the Silicon Valley-based company, which currently has 2 billion monthly active users, has suffered a loss of $50 billion in market value.  

Does Facebook retain your data from your deleted account? Watch below to find out  

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