Facebook boss apologises in UK and US newspaper ads

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has taken out full-page adverts in several UK and US Sunday newspapers to apologise for the firm’s recent data privacy scandal.

He said Facebook could have done more to stop millions of users having their data exploited by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica in 2014.

“This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry,” the back-page ads state.

It comes amid reports Facebook was warned its data protection policies were too weak back in 2011.

The full-page apology featured in broadsheets and tabloids in the UK, appearing on the back page of the Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Observer, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express.

In the US, it was seen by readers of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

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    In the advert, Mr Zuckerberg said a quiz developed by a university researcher had “leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014”.

    “I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the tech chief said.

    It echoes comments Mr Zuckerberg made last week after reports of the leak prompted investigations in Europe and the US, and knocked billions of dollars of Facebook’s market value.

    Mr Zuckerberg repeated that Facebook had already changed its rules so no such 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 stated.

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

    The ads contained no mention of the political consultancy accused of using the leaked data, Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

    The British firm has denied wrongdoing.

    What is the row about?

    In 2014, Facebook invited users to find out their personality type via a quiz developed by Cambridge University researcher, Dr Alexsandr Kogan called This is Your Digital Life.

    About 270,000 users’ data was collected, but the app also collected some public data from users’ friends without their knowledge.

    Facebook has since changed the amount of data developers can gather in this way, but a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, says the data of about 50 million people was harvested for Cambridge Analytica before the rules on user consent were tightened up.

    Mr Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

    Facebook has said Dr Kogan passed this information on to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge. And Cambridge Analytica has blamed Dr Kogan for any potential breach of data rules.

    But Dr Kogan has said he was told by Cambridge Analytica everything they had done was legal, and that he was being made a “scapegoat” by the firm and Facebook.

    Did Facebook get a warning seven years ago?

    As first reported in the Sunday Telegraph, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) warned Facebook’s security policies were too weak to stop abuse in 2011, some three years before the breach took place.

    Following an audit, the DPC said relying on developers to follow information rules in some cases was not good enough “to ensure security of user data”.

    It also said Facebook processes to stop abuse were not strong enough to “assure users of the security of their data once they have third party apps enabled”.

    Facebook said it strengthened its protections following the recommendations and was told it had addressed the DPC’s original concerns after a second audit in 2012. The tech firm also said it changed its platform entirely in 2014 with the regulator’s recommendations in mind.

If I’ve got your number, so has Facebook

Suddenly lots of people are waking up and asking themselves questions about Facebook. How much data am I sharing with the social media giant? Did I really give permission for it to be collected and stored?

And, even more seriously, have I handed over my friends’ data to be stored on some Californian server?

I am one of those people and what I’ve discovered has left me somewhat shocked. Over the weekend I got hold of my Facebook data. It’s easy enough, you go to settings, then general account settings and click on download my data.

An hour or so later an email arrived with a link to click and I was downloading a 675MB folder chronicling all of my life on the network since I signed up in 2007.

Big numbers

At first sight there was nothing very troubling – I would expect all the photos and videos I’d ever posted to be there, and scrolling down my timeline provided an entertaining glimpse of my life over the last decade.

I did notice that for some years every song I’d listened to on Spotify was listed, a handy reminder that when you link any external app to Facebook it then gathers a lot more data about you.

But then I clicked on a file called contacts. I was taken aback to find my entire contact list, thousands of phone numbers. Now this was not limited to Facebook friends and included many people in the public eye who might be disturbed to find that their private numbers were stored in this way.

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    I cannot remember what happened when I set up my Facebook account back in 2007 – in those naive days I could well have clicked yes when invited to upload my contacts so that I could see who else was part of this new young community. So, my fault I suppose.

    Then I noticed that at the top of the list were some numbers that cannot have been sucked into the Facebook machine a decade ago because I had only added them in recent weeks. They included, ironically, the mobile number of Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who has blown open the whole story of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.

    So this means that every time I enter a new number into my phone’s database, it somehow ends up with Facebook – the company is in effect monitoring me.

    This is not the most startling example of Facebook’s data collection. At least one user has reported that all of his text messages from an Android phone have somehow ended up being stored by Mark Zuckerberg’s company.

    Even if Facebook users agree to share this data, their friends whose numbers or text messages are being collected almost certainly have not. And even if those people have never joined Facebook – or have decided to delete their accounts – it looks as though some of their data will stay with the social network as long as the people who provided it remain.

    Facebook says that uploading your contacts is a normal part of signing up with many messaging or social apps – and insists that users are given a clear choice.

    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.

    The company is right to say this is common practice. And if you think it is creepy that Facebook is storing this information, what about Apple’s iCloud where millions store their iPhone data, including their contacts?

    In any case, Facebook insists it never shares this data with anyone else. The problem is that its business model, unlike Apple’s, depends on exploiting its users’ data. And given what they have learned over the last week about how that information may have been used, many Facebook users may not be inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Facebook boss apologises in UK and US newspaper ads

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has taken out full-page adverts in several UK and US Sunday newspapers to apologise for the firm’s recent data privacy scandal.

He said Facebook could have done more to stop millions of users having their data exploited by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica in 2014.

“This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry,” the back-page ads state.

It comes amid reports Facebook was warned its data protection policies were too weak back in 2011.

The full-page apology featured in broadsheets and tabloids in the UK, appearing on the back page of the Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Observer, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express.

In the US, it was seen by readers of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

  • Facebook’s Zuckerberg speaks out over Cambridge Analytica ‘breach’
  • Facebook boss summoned over data claims

    In the advert, Mr Zuckerberg said a quiz developed by a university researcher had “leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014”.

    “I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the tech chief said.

    It echoes comments Mr Zuckerberg made last week after reports of the leak prompted investigations in Europe and the US, and knocked billions of dollars of Facebook’s market value.

    Mr Zuckerberg repeated that Facebook had already changed its rules so no such 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 stated.

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

    The ads contained no mention of the political consultancy accused of using the leaked data, Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

    The British firm – which has no connection with Cambridge University – has denied wrongdoing.

    What is the row about?

    In 2014, Facebook invited users to find out their personality type via a quiz developed by Cambridge University researcher, Dr Alexsandr Kogan called This is Your Digital Life.

    About 270,000 users’ data was collected, but the app also collected some public data from users’ friends without their knowledge.

    Facebook has since changed the amount of data developers can gather in this way, but a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, says the data of about 50 million people was harvested for Cambridge Analytica before the rules on user consent were tightened up.

    Mr Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

    Facebook has said Dr Kogan passed this information on to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge. And Cambridge Analytica has blamed Dr Kogan for any potential breach of data rules.

    But Dr Kogan has said he was told by Cambridge Analytica everything they had done was legal, and that he was being made a “scapegoat” by the firm and Facebook.

    Did Facebook get a warning seven years ago?

    As first reported in the Sunday Telegraph, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) warned Facebook’s security policies were too weak to stop abuse in 2011, some three years before the breach took place.

    Following an audit, the DPC said relying on developers to follow information rules in some cases was not good enough “to ensure security of user data”.

    It also said Facebook processes to stop abuse were not strong enough to “assure users of the security of their data once they have third party apps enabled”.

    Facebook said it strengthened its protections following the recommendations and was told it had addressed the DPC’s original concerns after a second audit in 2012. The tech firm also said it changed its platform entirely in 2014 with the regulator’s recommendations in mind.

The week Facebook’s value plunged $58bn

Facebook ended the week $58bn lower in value after its handling of a historic data breach.

Its founder Mark Zuckerberg apologised for data breaches that affected 50 million users.

The apology did not stop investors from selling shares in Facebook, with many wondering just how bad the damage would be for the social network.

The breach was called a “light bulb” moment for users, spawning the social media trend #deletefacebook.

All the negative headlines led to some advertisers saying “enough is enough”.

Shares in the social media company fell from $176.80 on Monday to around $159.30 by Friday night.

Will the shares recover?

Facebook’s initial public offering in 2012 priced shares at $38 each, giving the company a market valuation of close to $104bn.

Following steady user growth and a dominant space in the digital advertising market ensuring revenues, Facebook’s share price climbed to $190 by February this year.

Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research, said he had one of the most negative outlooks for Facebook’s share price on Wall Street.

“I had a $152 price target on Facebook for 2018 – and that was before the events of this week”.

Mr Wieser said the share price slump showed investors were wary of increased regulation and users leaving the platform “but there’s little risk of advertisers leaving Facebook. Where else would they go?”

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Laith Khalaf said the week had been a “damaging episode” in Facebook’s history.

“One of the secrets of Facebook’s success has been that the more people who use Facebook, the more integral it becomes to its customers. Unfortunately for Facebook, the same dynamic cuts in the opposite direction if it loses a meaningful number of users as a result of this scandal. “

What has been the response from advertisers?

Advertising firm M&C Saatchi’s founding director David Kershaw said the revelations that a 2014 Facebook quiz essentially harvested data from users and their connected friends without consent have led to a backlash from advertisers.

“Clients have come to the point, quite rightly, where enough is enough, ” Mr Kershaw said.

Advertisers Mozilla and Commerzbank on Wednesday suspended ads on the social media platform.

On Friday tech entrepreneur Elon Musk had the official Facebook pages for his companies Telsa and Space X deleted.

“Make no mistake Facebook is an amazing medium from the advertiser’s point of view because of the accuracy of its targeting – which comes from data. But I think those large companies are very nervous to be associated with a medium where the data is being abused, particularly in a political context,” Mr Kershaw said.

Mr Kershaw told the BBC any change in Facebook’s data protection policy was more likely to come from the threat of a withdrawal of “hard money from advertisers rather than consumers running hashtag [campaigns] on Twitter,” referring to the #DeleteFacebook and #BoycottFacebook hashtags that have become popular.

UK advertising group ISBA met Facebook on Friday and said its “constructive and challenging” summit had convinced the group that the social media company was taking steps to “rapidly address public and advertiser concerns”, including app audits and face-to-face meetings with individual UK advertising clients.

It will take some time before it becomes clear if the advertising industry’s dissatisfaction with Facebook leads to them actually pulling their money out of the social network, or whether the howls of condemnation amount to mere posturing from a group of concerned clients.

Has Zuckerberg done enough to reassure people?

The Facebook founder tried to reassure users “the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago.”

However, Passion Capital tech investor Eileen Burbidge, who is also on the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group, said Facebook’s reassurance to users and clients took too long.

“The fact that it took them five days to come out with a statement, which happened to be a fair, sensible and comprehensive statement, was just far too long,” Mrs Burbidge said.

“I think they were just really tone deaf for too many days.”

The technology venture capitalist said Facebook underestimated the consumer backlash that occurred once their data was used for political purposes.

Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of a row over whether it used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to sway the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.

“Some people are using the term ‘political manipulation’.

“They [Facebook] assumed they had already taken care of this… as they had already changed their terms of service, for example,” Mrs Burbidge said.

In Mr Zuckerberg’s online statement he offered a timeline of how Facebook’s data permission agreements with users and other companies had changed since the 2014 personality quiz app was able to scrape data from quiz takers and their contacts without their expressed permission.

Mrs Burbidge said there may need to be new regulation over political campaigning “which really hasn’t kept up with social media”.

What will Facebook users do?

Technology writer Kate Bevan said the week’s events have woken Facebook’s users up to the fact that the platform’s games, quizzes and apps could harvest their data for more serious intents.

“This week feels to me like a real light bulb moment where people are understanding that it’s not just clicking ‘like’ on Facebook, it’s giving your data away”.

The sentiment was echoed by the European Union’s commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality Vera Jourova who said the Cambridge Analytica allegations had been “a huge wake-up call” for Facebook users about the demand for their data.

“The tiger has gotten out of the cage”.

The week Facebook’s value plunged $58bn

Facebook ended the week $58bn lower in value after its handling of a historic data breach.

Its founder Mark Zuckerberg apologised for data breaches that affected 50 million users.

The apology did not stop investors from selling shares in Facebook, with many wondering just how bad the damage would be for the social network.

The breach was called a “light bulb” moment for users, spawning the social media trend #deletefacebook.

All the negative headlines led to some advertisers saying “enough is enough”.

Shares in the social media company fell from $176.80 on Monday to around $159.30 by Friday night.

Will the shares recover?

Facebook’s initial public offering in 2012 priced shares at $38 each, giving the company a market valuation of close to $104bn.

Following steady user growth and a dominant space in the digital advertising market ensuring revenues, Facebook’s share price climbed to $190 by February this year.

Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research, said he had one of the most negative outlooks for Facebook’s share price on Wall Street.

“I had a $152 price target on Facebook for 2018 – and that was before the events of this week”.

Mr Wieser said the share price slump showed investors were wary of increased regulation and users leaving the platform “but there’s little risk of advertisers leaving Facebook. Where else would they go?”

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Laith Khalaf said the week had been a “damaging episode” in Facebook’s history.

“One of the secrets of Facebook’s success has been that the more people who use Facebook, the more integral it becomes to its customers. Unfortunately for Facebook, the same dynamic cuts in the opposite direction if it loses a meaningful number of users as a result of this scandal. “

What has been the response from advertisers?

Advertising firm M&C Saatchi’s founding director David Kershaw said the revelations that a 2014 Facebook quiz essentially harvested data from users and their connected friends without consent have led to a backlash from advertisers.

“Clients have come to the point, quite rightly, where enough is enough, ” Mr Kershaw said.

Advertisers Mozilla and Commerzbank on Wednesday suspended ads on the social media platform.

On Friday tech entrepreneur Elon Musk had the official Facebook pages for his companies Telsa and Space X deleted.

“Make no mistake Facebook is an amazing medium from the advertiser’s point of view because of the accuracy of its targeting – which comes from data. But I think those large companies are very nervous to be associated with a medium where the data is being abused, particularly in a political context,” Mr Kershaw said.

Mr Kershaw told the BBC any change in Facebook’s data protection policy was more likely to come from the threat of a withdrawal of “hard money from advertisers rather than consumers running hashtag [campaigns] on Twitter,” referring to the #DeleteFacebook and #BoycottFacebook hashtags that have become popular.

UK advertising group ISBA met Facebook on Friday and said its “constructive and challenging” summit had convinced the group that the social media company was taking steps to “rapidly address public and advertiser concerns”, including app audits and face-to-face meetings with individual UK advertising clients.

It will take some time before it becomes clear if the advertising industry’s dissatisfaction with Facebook leads to them actually pulling their money out of the social network, or whether the howls of condemnation amount to mere posturing from a group of concerned clients.

Has Zuckerberg done enough to reassure people?

The Facebook founder tried to reassure users “the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago.”

However, Passion Capital tech investor Eileen Burbidge, who is also on the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group, said Facebook’s reassurance to users and clients took too long.

“The fact that it took them five days to come out with a statement, which happened to be a fair, sensible and comprehensive statement, was just far too long,” Mrs Burbidge said.

“I think they were just really tone deaf for too many days.”

The technology venture capitalist said Facebook underestimated the consumer backlash that occurred once their data was used for political purposes.

Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of a row over whether it used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to sway the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.

“Some people are using the term ‘political manipulation’.

“They [Facebook] assumed they had already taken care of this… as they had already changed their terms of service, for example,” Mrs Burbidge said.

In Mr Zuckerberg’s online statement he offered a timeline of how Facebook’s data permission agreements with users and other companies had changed since the 2014 personality quiz app was able to scrape data from quiz takers and their contacts without their express permission.

Mrs Burbidge said there may need to be new regulation over political campaigning “which really hasn’t kept up with social media”.

What will Facebook users do?

Technology writer Kate Bevan said the week’s events have woken Facebook’s users up to the fact that the platform’s games, quizzes and apps could harvest their data for more serious intents.

“This week feels to me like a real light bulb moment where people are understanding that it’s not just clicking ‘like’ on Facebook, it’s giving your data away”.

The sentiment was echoed by the European Union’s commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality Vera Jourova who said the Cambridge Analytica allegations had been “a huge wake-up call” for Facebook users about the demand for their data.

“The tiger has gotten out of the cage”.

Pressure mounts on Zuckerberg to face data breach concerns

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is facing intensified calls to appear in person at investigations into the social network’s conduct.

His company has been accused of failing to properly inform users that their profile information may have been obtained and kept by Cambridge Analytica, a data firm widely-credited with helping Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook said on Friday it had blocked Cambridge Analytica from Facebook while it investigated claims the London-based firm did not, as promised, delete data that was allegedly obtained using methods that were in violation of Facebook’s policies.

Both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook deny any wrongdoing.

Despite pledging that in 2018 he would “fix” his company, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has managed to avoid engaging with the site’s growing number of critics – instead sending lawyers or policy bosses to various committee hearings.

The man in charge of Britain’s investigation into Russian meddling in the democratic process said he too wanted to press Mr Zuckerberg on the issue.

“I will be writing to Mark Zuckerberg asking that either he or another senior executive from the company appear to give evidence in front of the committee as part our inquiry,” said Damian Collins MP.

“It is not acceptable that they have previously sent witnesses who seek to avoid asking difficult questions by claiming not to know the answers.”

Mr Collins also said he would be recalling Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix to parliament to answer more questions.

“It seems clear that he has deliberately misled the committee and parliament,” Mr. Collins said.

Cambridge Analytica and Mr Nix have denied any wrongdoing.

Deleted tweets

In an attempt to get out ahead of a story in the New York Times and Observer newspapers, Facebook made an announcement late Friday night, California time, that it was blocking Cambridge Analytica from using Facebook while it investigated claims the inappropriately-obtained data had not been deleted as promised.

This was followed by remarks from Alex Stamos, the firm’s chief security officer, who wrote and then deleted a series of tweets. He objected to the word “breach” being used to describe how data from as many as 50 million peoples’ user profiles may have been obtained without explicit user consent.

“I have deleted my tweets on Cambridge Analytica,” he later wrote.

“Not because they were factually incorrect but because I should have done a better job weighing in.”

Christopher Wylie, a Canadian data analytics expert who worked with Cambridge Analytica, revealed how it and its partners harvested data belonging to mostly US voters. Over the weekend, he announced he had been suspended from Facebook.

Skip Twitter post by @chrisinsilico

Suspended by @facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for 2 years. pic.twitter.com/iSu6VwqUdG

— Christopher Wylie (@chrisinsilico) March 18, 2018

Report

End of Twitter post by @chrisinsilico

On top of its initial statement, Facebook on Sunday said it was conducting a “comprehensive internal and external review” into whether the data, gathered via an app created by Global Science Research (GSR), still existed.

GSR was set up by University of Cambridge associate professor Aleksandr Kogan and his colleague Joseph Chancellor. According to the Guardian, Mr Chancellor was given a job at Facebook as a researcher just months after GSR carried out the data-gathering exercise that Facebook now says violated its policies.

Facebook has not commented on the calls for Mr Zuckerberg to appear in front of the several committees expressing a desire to hear from him.

But one analyst warned that this controversy is a direct threat to Facebook’s business model, and therefore Mr Zuckerberg will be expected to put investors at ease, sooner rather than later.

“This has potential to grow into something a lot more onerous,” said Daniel Ives from GBH Insight.

“So he has to get ahead of this storm before it turns into a hurricane.”

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