Facebook Exec Says Data Scandal Has ‘Raised Serious Questions’

Facebook is investigating Cambridge Analytica and any other parties involved with the scandal
March 28, 2018 Updated: March 28, 2018

TORONTO—A Facebook executive admits that the tech giant “has a lot to answer to” in the wake of a scandal that allegedly saw user data mishandled.

Speaking to about 1,500 marketers at the company’s Canadian summit in Toronto, vice-president of global marketing solutions for North America Nada Stirratt said recent allegations that the data of up to 50 million Facebook users was misused by analytics firm Cambridge Analytica are “really concerning” and “have raised serious questions.”

For weeks, the scandal has had Facebook on the defensive over their data policies, with social media campaigns calling on users to delete their accounts and suggestions that Cambridge Analytica used the data to target voters in the 2016 U.S. election with political advertisements based on their psychological profile.

“We are ultimately responsible to ensure that things like that do not happen on our platform,” said Stirratt on March 28. “We let people down and we are deeply sorry for that.”

She said Facebook is “fully investigating” Cambridge Analytica and any other parties involved with the scandal.

Those investigations will extend beyond the incident to any other parties that might have mishandled information available through the platform, Stirratt vowed, adding that if past abuse is found, the company will take “swift action.”

“If we can’t protect your data, we don’t deserve to serve you,” she said.

Stirratt outlined protecting user data, ensuring transparency and addressing the spread of misinformation as the company’s key priorities to rebuilding user trust and cited a wave of commitments previously made by Facebook’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Among them are a promise to inform people who may have been impacted by Cambridge Analytica’s data use and to audit apps that had access to Facebook data.

The company also said it would be updating its mobile app to make it easier for users to control their privacy settings.

Facebook said the update will consolidate settings that were previously spread across nearly 20 different screens into one easier-to-find area and will make it clear what personal information can and cannot be shared with third-party apps.

The changes will allow users to review what they’ve shared over time and give them the option to delete their data, but it is not clear when the app update will become available.

In an online post signed by chief privacy officer Erin Egan and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer, the company also says it is “proposing updates to Facebook’s terms of service that include our commitments to people.”

“We’ll also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it. These updates are about transparency—not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data,” reads the post.

From The Canadian Press, with files from Michael Oliveira