Mark Zuckerberg finally responds to the scandal engulfing Facebook
The Cambridge Analytica scandal engulfed Facebook and the internet on Sunday morning, when The Guardian and New York Times published their independent reports from whistleblower Christopher Wylie. Some 90 hours later, after a political firestorm involving a request to testify before MPs and the suspension Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg responded in a post on Facebook.
For those eager to get an apology, you won’t find the word “sorry” or any related synonyms in it once. Instead, Zuckerberg acknowledged that a “breach of trust” had occurred, and added that “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.
“While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past,” he continued, explaining that all Facebook apps showcasing “suspicious activity” would receive a “full forensic audit”.
Zuckerberg expanded on this in an interview with Wired, saying “I think the short answer to this is that’s the step that I think we should have done for Cambridge Analytica, and we’re now going to go do it for every developer who is on the platform who had access to a large amount of data before we locked things down in 2014.” Any developer that declines will be banned from the platform, he said.
In another stop on the Zuckerberg non-apology tour, the Facebook CEO was asked about the #DeleteFacebook campaign, and whether the company had seen any drop in user numbers. “I don’t think we’ve seen a meaningful number of people act on that, but, you know, it’s not good,” he replied. “I think it’s a clear signal that this is a major trust issue for people, and I understand that. And whether people delete their app over it or just don’t feel good about using Facebook, that’s a big issue that I think we have a responsibility to rectify.”
To be entirely fair to Zuckerberg, he did manage to choke out the “S” word in an interview with CNN, saying “I’m really sorry that this happened.” Asked if he would be prepared to answer Congress’ questions on the company’s data usage, he said he would be happy to do so “if it’s the right thing to do.” If that sounds like a curious caveat, he went on to add that “what we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge.” For some reason, Mark Zuckerberg is unsure if he fits that bill.
Whether or not this oddly conditional offer applies to the UK parliament is, despite an official invite, up in the air.
Perhaps the most telling line in the CNN interview, however, was how Zuckerberg responded when asked if the social network should be regulated. “I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” he said, before pontificating on what the right sort of regulation should be. “If you look at how much regulation there is around advertising on TV and print, it’s just not clear why there should be less on the internet. We should have the same level of transparency required.”
Just words for now, but the idea that these words could leave Zuckerberg’s lips would have seemed hugely unlikely just a couple of years ago. It seems the Cambridge Analytica story still has a long way to run.