Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to the US Congress and accepted responsibility over the Cambridge Analytica scandal for "not doing enough" to protect its users' personal data being misused.
In a testimony released on Monday on the eve of his first Congressional appearance, Zuckerberg accepted responsibility for the social network's failure to protect private data of its 87 million users and prevent manipulation of the platform. "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," Zuckerberg said in his written testimony released by a House of Representatives panel. "I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here." "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," Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg, 33, who is facing the worst crisis of business, will testify before senators later today and a House panel tomorrow amid a firestorm over the hijacking of data on millions of Facebook users by the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. In prepared remarks released by a congressional panel, Zuckerberg admitted he was too idealistic and failed to grasp how the platform, used by two billion people, could be abused and manipulated. Yesterday, he met Senator Bill Nelson and other lawmakers. "I just met one-on-one with Zuckerberg and in no uncertain terms reminded him that Facebook has a responsibility to its users to protect our personal data. Facebook failed us," Nelson said.
"Not only did they fail to safeguard the personal information of millions of users, they concealed it from us – and this is not the first time the company mishandled user information. Only now are they coming clean and informing those who have had their information compromised and telling us they are going to make things right," he said. Last week, Zuckerberg admitted making a "huge mistake" as personal data of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, a figure higher than the previous estimate of 50 million.
Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook in 2004, once again admitted the lapses and asked for another chance to lead the company. Embroiled in a massive data breach following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook had said data on about 87 million people - mostly in the US - may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. Nelson said he has asked the Congressional leadership to to haul Cambridge Analytica in to answer questions at a separate hearing. "The bottom line here is: if Facebook can't fix its privacy problems, then how can Americans trust them to be caretakers of their sensitive information?" he asked. In his written remarks, Zuckerberg said it's not enough to just connect people.
"We have to make sure those connections are positive. It's not enough to just give people a voice, we have to make sure people aren't using it to hurt people or spread misinformation. It's not enough to give people control of their information, we have to make sure developers they've given it to are protecting it too," he said. "Across the board, we have a responsibility to not just build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good. It will take some time to work through all of the changes we need to make, but I'm committed to getting it right," the Facebook CEO said.
Zuckerberg said his top priority has always been his social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together. "Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I'm running Facebook," he said. "I started Facebook when I was in college. We've come a long way since then. We now serve more than 2 billion people around the world, and every day, people use our services to stay connected with the people that matter to them most. I believe deeply in what we're doing. And when we address these challenges, I know we'll look back and view helping people connect and giving more people a voice as a positive force in the world," Zuckerberg said.
The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration is looking forward to his testimony. Zeynep Tufekci from University of North Carolina apprehended that the testimony just turns into congressional spectacle, that lawmakers yell at Zuckerberg. "And Mark Zuckerberg apologises. It will feel cathartic, but that's not the problem. This isn't about personalities," he told PBS news. "And Facebook keeps saying it's an idealistic company. It's a giant company with half-a-trillion dollars in market capitalisation. It's about not about idealism. It's about protecting our data. It's about protecting our public sphere," he said.