By Pierangelly Del Rio
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has broken his five-day silence on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In recent days, Facebook has experienced the biggest crisis of its existence as reports emerged signaling Facebook’s data had been misused. In a 937 word statement posted on his Facebook profile, Zuckerberg claimed responsibility saying: “I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform.” The response, posted on Wednesday evening, comes after outrage from the public and demands from lawmakers in the UK and US to know how personal information belonging to tens of millions of users ended up in the hands of the data analysis firm.
In the statement, Zuckerberg admitted Facebook “makes mistakes” and said: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
He also said Facebook had known about Cambridge Analytica’s possession of improperly acquired personal data back in 2015. Because it was against the social network’s policies, they demanded Cambridge Analytica to delete all the data. However, according to Zuckerberg, only last week Facebook became aware the data analysis firm had not complied with the demands thanks to reports from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, shared Zuckerberg’s post and added her own comment saying: “…this was a major violation of people’s trust, and I deeply regret that we didn’t do enough to deal with it. We have a responsibility to protect your data – and if we can’t, then we don’t deserve to serve you.”
Zuckerberg also gave interviews to CNN, The New York Times and Wired, in which he apologised and said he was open to Facebook being more regulated.
The Cambridge Analytica Scandal summarised
In 2013, Aleksandr Kogan (currently banned from Facebook) a researcher from Cambridge University designed a personality quiz app. The app collected the data of approximately 300,000 people, who shared their friends’ data. Facebook’s policies allowed Kogan to harvest the personal details of 30 million people. The academic then passed the data to Cambridge Analytica, who assured him this was legal.
Weeks after Donald Trump won the 2016’s presidential election, rumours emerged that Cambridge Analytica had aided his campaign. Funded by the conservative mogul, Robert Mercer, and Steve Banon, the firm allegedly used “psychorgraphics”, a technique which builds a detailed psychological profile of a user that will allow a campaign to predict exactly what kind of appeal will be most likely to convince any particular voter. Facebook’s derived data as the key to this targeting effort. Equally, Cambridge Analytica has been linked to the Brexit campaign in favour of leaving the EU. Alexander Nix, the current (but suspended) CEO of the data analysis firm claimed in an article that Cambridge Analytica “helped supercharge Leave.EU’s social media campaign” and boosted its Facebook following “to the tune of about 3,000 people per day”. Nix later denied writing the article.
The same year, journalist and writer Carole Cadwalladr, found the first indications that Cambridge Analytica had used personal data unlawfully. Cadwalladr’s efforts and article prompted and investigation by Britain’s Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office on the use of data and politics, which still continue.
Meanwhile, former Cambridge Analytica employees, such as Christopher Wylie have spoken about the firm’s use of people’s private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. More questionable tactics have been unraveled by executives from the firm. Fake bribery stings and hiring sex workers were mentioned in a video with undercover reporters from Channel 4.
It remains that, in spite of not being directly related to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and the data acquired by third parties, remain the source of the scandal. Only on Tuesday, $50 billion were wiped away from the social network and Zuckerberg lost $9 billion of his wealth. And, despite claims that there hasn’t been a major exodus from Facebook, many users, such as What’s App co-founder, have questioned whether the breach of trust should be a signal for users to delete their accounts.