Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear before Congress on Monday for what is sure to be an intense grilling years in the making following his social media platform’s use during the 2016 presidential election. According to his written testimony, which was released prior to the hearing, Zuckerberg is taking the blame for the private information of up to 87 million users of his service being compromised.
”It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy … We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
The meeting comes three weeks after it was revealed that data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed more than 50 million users’ private information without their knowledge. Facebook would later state that the number of affected users was closer to 87 million. The company plans to begin notifying users whose information was compromised via email on Monday.
Zuckerberg’s admission of guilt is commendable, but is hardly seen as genuine considering the long history of his company’s, and his own, knowledge of security issues within the service. The impending exit of Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, exposed an internal struggle between his team and other company executives about how transparent the company should be regarding the reporting of Russian interference within the platform.
That interference saw a reported 126 million Facebook users receive content from Russian-linked troll farm, according to CNN, which heavily altered the discourse and spread of information during the 2016 presidential election. “I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy,” said Zuckerberg.
Beyond falling on his sword, Zuckerberg also promised changes have and would continue to come as Facebook works to protect its users and it image. The company plans to drastically reduce the amount of data accessible by third-party apps, even removing an app’s access to any of your information if that app hasn’t been used in three months. The company will also impose stricter requirements upon any third-party asking users for more access to their data and will restrict groups and events to further shield other users’ information. They have already discontinued a tool that allowed anyone to search for users by phone number and email address due to abuses in its use.
Zuckerberg also outlines how the company will make it easier for users to see which third-party apps they’ve given access to their private information and how to easily revoke individual apps’ privilege to that material. They are also currently investigating every app that had access to users’ information before the company implemented new security measures in 2014 and increasing their security team from 15,000 employees to 20,000. “I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security … that it will significantly impact our profitability going forward,” said Zuckerberg.
The measures outlined in Zuckerberg’s written testimony to Congress surely will not be the final say on changes in practice and culture that need adopting. It’s a fine first step, but it could also be characterized as lip service from an executive who actively chose not to publicly speak about the issues facing his platform until the Cambridge Analytica scandal was unearthed. Needless to say, there should be plenty of more interesting bits to come out once Zuckerberg takes the capitol hottest seat on Monday.
Read his entire written testimony here.