Facebook on Sunday issued full-page advertisements in several United Kingdom and United States newspapers to apologise for a data breach scandal. “I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” the advertisement, signed by the company’s chief Mark Zuckerberg, said.
The advertisement made no mention of Cambridge Analytica, the British firm accused of using the private data of more than five crore Facebook users to influence voters during United States President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. It simply said Facebook had already put in place measures to protect users’ data.
“This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry,” said the back-page ads that were featured in newspapers including the Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Observer, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express in the UK, and in The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in the US, BBC reported.
“We’ve already stopped apps like this from getting so much information,” the apology read. “Now we’re limiting the data apps get when you sign in using Facebook.”
The social networking site also said it was investigating every app that had access to data “before we fixed this”. “We expect there are others. And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected,” read the ad.
Zuckerberg’s apology comes just days after he admitted to mistakes that led to the breach. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t, then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook page.
Zuckerberg also promised to ensure the integrity of upcoming elections in India and other countries. “We have a responsibility to do this, not only for the 2018 midterms in the US, which are going to be a huge deal this year...” he said. “There’s a big election in India this year, there’s a big election in Brazil, there are big elections around the world, and you can bet that we are really committed to doing everything that we need to to make sure that the integrity of those elections on Facebook is secured.”
The breach came to light following reports by the Channel4News, whose journalists went undercover and recorded top executives of Cambridge Analytica talking about using the private data of millions of people, and shell companies, sex workers, fake news and bribes to sway election outcomes in several countries.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie – who worked with Cambridge Analytica – claimed the firm collected data through a personality quiz on the social networking site, and used it to profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them. The channel also claimed to have evidence of the firm’s officials boasting about having worked in election campaigns across the world, including India.
Data breach and India
Last week, a French cyber security expert who goes by the name Elliot Alderson on social media claimed that the Narendra Modi Android application shares private information of its users with third party companies without their consent. The expert has been exposing loopholes in the Aadhaar security system since January.
On Sunday, the BJP clarified the data from the app was shared with a “third party service” for analytics, similar to Google Analytics, and that the data was “in no way stored or used by the third party services”.