As Facebook continues to buffet winds of criticism, its founder took out full page ads in U.S. and British newspapers Sunday to apologize to consumers for not properly securing their personal data.
“This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” Mark Zuckerberg said in the signed ad, which was published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and six British papers. “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.”
The ad refers to the misuse of 50 million Facebook profiles, which were mined through an app created by a Cambridge University professor and then sold, in violation of Facebook’s terms of service, to Cambridge Analytica, a company that used the profiles to create election ad-targeting tools for the campaign to elect Donald Trump.
Zuckerberg’s belated mea culpa comes in the midst of a major crisis for the global social network.
Facebook shares dropped 14% since the scandal broke more than a week ago, eroding Zuckerberg’s net worth by $10 billion and the company’s market cap by $75 billion. In response, a #DeleteFacebook campaign took root, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk and others acting on the hashtag.
Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, last week told CNBC that “we know this is an issue of trust. We know this is a critical moment for our company.”
A new poll shows a significant erosion of trust in Facebook, as lawmakers continue to call for its founder to testify before Congress.
A Reuters/Ipsos online poll released Sunday found that 41% of Americans trust Facebook to obey laws that protect their personal information, compared with 66% who said they trust Amazon, 62% who trust Alphabet’s Google and 60% for Microsoft.
On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said Zuckerberg “needs to come and testify.” Warner added that “I think the whole industry has been reluctant to accept the fact that we’re seeing the dark underbelly of social media and how it can be manipulated.”
Facebook’s senior leadership was conspicuously quiet in the immediate wake of the Cambridge Analytica debacle. Sandberg said nothing until a spate of interviews late last week.
Zuckerberg’s first comment on the issue was a Facebook post on March 21. It was notable for not offering a distinct apology; he finally used the word “sorry” a bit later in the day in an interview on CNN.
In his blog post, Zuckerberg announced a slew of changes aimed at Facebook app developers and designed to prevent another Cambridge Analytica situation.
Developers will receive only a user’s name, profile photo, and email address when someone signs in through Facebook, with more detailed information that includes their posts available only after getting permission from Facebook, Zuckerberg said.
Facebook also will begin cutting off an app’s access to an account holder’s data if the app hasn’t been used for three months. The realization that users have potentially allowed hundreds of apps to gather data in the background has led some to set aside time to delete those apps from their account.