Following the data breach allegations involving Cambridge Analytica, Facebook started haemorrhaging money like a drunk punter at the races. At one point $50 billion was knocked off the company’s market capitalisation.
The CEO Mark Zuckerberg chose to go to ground and say nothing and was roundly criticised for doing so. However last night the Zuck broke cover with a long Facebook update. It starts in a pretty unconvincing manner.
‘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.’
To which the response would be, well they obviously didn’t work so why do you think the checks and balances will work in the future?
There are some well-crafted messages in the post, which includes a timeline of Facebook’s dealing with Cambridge Analytica, but nothing like the full apology required. But my main quibble with this response is the means of delivery. In such a serious case we want to see the CEO in person, issuing a mea culpa and taking tough questions from a seasoned journalist. A cosy update on your own platform doesn’t cut it.
So, it was good to see that overnight, UK time, Zuckerberg spoke to a slew of both broadcast and print media including CNN, The New York Times and Wired and did a pretty credible job of digging his company out of the dirt.
At CNN, he apologised live on air saying: “This was a major breach of trust and I’m really sorry this happened. Our responsibility now is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
He also said he was willing to appear before Congress: “I’m happy to if it’s the right thing to do. What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge. If that’s me, then I am happy to go.”
He claimed the company would conduct an audit of thousands of apps that grab user data and said Facebook would contact any customers whose data had been seized by Cambridge Analytica. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of his company being subject to more stringent regulation.
Has he done enough to cauterise Facebook’s self-inflicted wounds? He will be judged not just on his words but on his actions. For Facebook to continue to thrive, users need to feel confident that their data is safe. In many ways Zuckerberg and Facebook are victims of their own success: How do you secure data belong to billions of people? It’s no simple task.
Zuckerberg admits as much: “Security isn’t a problem that you ever fully solve. We’re going to be working on this forever, as long as this community remains an important thing in the world.”