Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made his first public statement Wednesday following reports thatRepublican campaign operatives obtained data from 50 million users to inform the campaigns of President Donald Trump and other conservative candidates.
In a post on Facebook, the Facebook chief executive reiterated that it demanded the group, Cambridge Analytica, delete data obtained from Facebook users three years ago and detailed further protections it will put in place to protect user data.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”
Cambridge Analytica was officially formed by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon with a $15 million investment from Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer. The goal was to leverage tactics originating at Cambridge University that claimed to predict personality traits and behavior through a process called “psychographic mapping.” Cambridge Analytica hired Russian-American psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan to secure the underlying data necessary to conduct this kind of mapping, which helps campaigns target specific groups.
Kogan created an app called thisisyourdigitallife, which offered Facebook users small payments if they downloaded it and took a personality quiz. The app scraped private information from those 300,000 Facebook profiles, including data from 50 million of their unwitting Facebook friends. In 2014, Facebook updated its platform to limit the amount of data apps could access, which meant Kogan’s app could no longer get data about a user’s Facebook friends unless they too had the app.
Facebook says it removed Kogan’s app and demanded the data be destroyed in 2015 when the company learned that user information had been passed along to political operatives. Last week, Facebook was confronted with reports from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 saying that Cambridge Analytica may have not deleted that data. Its response was to immediately ban Cambridge Analytica from the platform. The group claimed it deleted data and agreed to an audit from a Facebook-hired firm to confirm that.
“This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.”
Going forward, Zuckerberg writes that Facebook will look into all apps that had access to large swaths of user data before the 2014 platform change and conduct an audit of any suspicious circumstances. The company will further limit how much user data apps can access by removing access to profiles that haven’t used an app in three months and cutting back on the permissions users give to apps to only name, profile picture and email address.
Facebook will add a tool at the top of its News Feed in the next month that shows users which apps they are using and make it easy to remove permissions.
“I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.”
Zuckerberg will be on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 at 6 p.m. Pacific to discuss the situation.