Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has broken his five-day silence on the Cambridge Analytica affair, telling users the company’s policies represented “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it.”
Zuckerberg has also said he will testify to any government inquiry into news Cambridge Analytica, the company that harvested over 50m users’ data. Its leaders were recently filmed boasting of their success in helping elect Donald Trump to the White House.
“We need to make sure there aren’t other Cambridge Analyticas out there,” he told CNN, in a tacit admission Facebook does not yet know how big the scale of its data problem is. Zuckerberg also expressed regrets that his firm did not tell affected users in 2015, and suggested that regulation could be one way to solve the issue.
That it took Zuckerberg so long to respond comes straight from the corporate PR playbook – something that will do little to allay users’ fears that there are, in fact, far more third parties skimming data from Facebook users’ accounts.
Well-known users including Brian Acton, the co-founder of Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, have encouraged followers to delete the platform, while ISBA, a British advertising group that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on Facebook each year, has admitted it is rethinking its model regarding the firm.
Neither has Zuckerberg’s long-awaited response enthused many people. Many complain it amounts to a ‘sorry-not-sorry’ admission that falls far short of the contrition required after such a fundamental breach of trust. Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, who is leaving amid disagreement over Russian misinformation, has attracted particular ire for backing Facebook based on the semantics of its labyrinthine terms of agreement.
Facebook prides itself on its speed of execution, and constant evolution. During this crisis it has reverted to the role of a legacy corporation – just as Uber did before Travis Kalanick was forced out. It is behavior that will do little to claw back credibility, or convince millions to, for the first time in a decade, delete the app. It looks set to get a lot worse for Zuckerberg and his charges.