Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has finally broken his silence after the Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded five days ago.
He wrote on his Facebook page, “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t, then we don’t deserve to serve you.”
The tech giant will revamp the way it shares information with third-party applications, pressured by the revelation that personal data of about 50 million Americans had been unscrupulously harvested and taken advantage by political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
The company was heavily involved in the pro-Brexit campaign and Donald Trump’s election victory.
Last week, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, exposed how Cambridge Analytica brazenly took personal information of millions of users, without their consent, to build software that could profile individual US voters in order to target them with personalised political ads.
At the time, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was an executive at the controversial company while hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer was the owner.
“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on,” Wylie said.
As a consequence of the scandal, Facebook shares have dropped some eight per cent.
Zuckerberg admitted his company’s responsibility in the breach, saying, “We also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”
The tech CEO outlined a three-step course of action to tackle the situation, including restricting data access to developers, more transparency with users and an audit of apps currently working on the platform.
“First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity,” Zuckerberg said.
“We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well.
“Second, we will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. For example, we will remove developers’ access to your data if you haven’t used their app in 3 months. We will reduce the data you give an app when you sign in – to only your 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.
“Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you’ve allowed to access your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you’ve used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to your 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.”
One of the high points of the scandal was the revelation that Facebook knew about the breach of privacy more than two years ago but only mentioned it publicly last Friday.