Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence on a scandal involving the misuse of personal user data by a developer that has shaken investor confidence and led to a growing number of calls for investigations and more government regulation of social media companies.
In a March 21 Facebook post, Zuckerberg admitted that his company has made mistakes regarding user privacy and outlined the steps it plans to take to restore users' trust. These include having more transparency about apps with access to user data and more limitations on how much of that data is accessible to app developers, and how long those developers can access it.
"We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," Zuckerberg said in the post.
Facebook disclosed March 16 that it had suspended the accounts of British company Strategic Communication Laboratories and its political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica LLC, as well as Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, for violating the platform's personal data policies. The company said it learned that data voluntarily provided to a personality test app created by University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan had been improperly passed on to third parties including Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does work for political, government and military clients around the globe.
In his post, Zuckerberg said Facebook had changed its policies in 2014 so that newer apps would already have less access to information than the personality app at the center of the current scandal. However, Zuckerberg said Facebook would conduct a full investigation of all apps using its platform before those changes went into effect and would audit any app found to have "suspicious activity."
Other changes rolling out to limit the potential for misuse of personal data include removing developers' access to data for apps that users are no longer accessing and requiring developers to sign a contract to request access to personal data. The data that users give to an app at sign-in also will be reduced to a user's name, profile photo and email address.
In the next month, Zuckerberg said Facebook will place a tool at the top of users' News Feed with information about the apps that have access to their data and how to revoke that access.
"We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward," the executive wrote.
Shares of Facebook ended trading March 21 at $169.39, down 8.5% since March 16.