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Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Apologizes For Data Privacy Scandal

NEW YORK (CBS SF/AP) -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally apologized Wednesday evening for weaknesses in the social network's policies that enabled an app to gain access to the personal information of 50 million users without their consent.

Zuckerberg told CNN late Wednesday that he is "really sorry," speaking in his first interview since news of the scandal broke last week.

His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged on his Facebook page that his company had made mistakes.

During the CNN interview, Zuckerberg also expressed regrets for not doing more after Facebook first discovered that Cambridge Analytica had gained access to a broad swath of Facebook users' data in 2015.

Until his post and the CNN interview, Zuckerberg had remained silent about the privacy scandal, as had Facebook's No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg.

According to CBS NewsZuckerberg also spoke to Wired editor-in-chief Nick Thompson about what he called "one of our biggest mistakes."

Thompson spoke to CBSN about his interview with Zuckerberg, who revealed "there are probably 15 changes" it will take "to further restrict data." He also told CBSN's Elaine Quijano that Facebook isn't so great at worst case scenarios and that it's inevitable that Zuckerberg testifies in front of Congress.

Earlier Wednesday afternoon, Zuckerberg released a statement on the data scandal on Facebook, breaking his silence about startling reports that the company mishandled the personal data of millions of users.

He wrote in a post on Facebook that there was a "breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us."

"We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you. I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again," Zuckerberg wrote.

ALSO READ: Investors Sue Facebook Following Data Harvesting Scandal

Zuckerberg and Facebook chief operating officer Sandberg have been under pressure to address the issue since headlines broke over the weekend about political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica and its harvesting of some 50 million Facebook users' data.

Referring to the app developer who shared Facebook data with Cambridge Analytica, he acknowledged, "This was a breach of trust between [Aleksandr] Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that."

Zuckerberg says the company made changes back in 2014 to restrict the amount of data app developers can access. He said Facebook will now take additional steps, such as removing developers' access to your data if you haven't used their app in 3 months, and reducing the amount of personal information an app gets when you sign in.

To help users understand which third-party apps have access to their data, Zuckerberg said, "In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you've used and an easy way to revoke those apps' permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it."

Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm financed by billionaire conservative activist Robert Mercer, was used by the Trump campaign in the 2016 race for the White House.

Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg also echoed Zuckerberg's statement in a post on Facebook: "We have a responsibility to protect your data -- and if we can't, then we don't deserve to serve you."

Changes Facebook will take in wake of data scandal

  • Will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information
  • Will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity
  • Will ban any developer that does not agree to a thorough audit
  • Will restrict developers' data access further to prevent other abuse
  • Will reduce the data consumers give an app when they sign on
  • Will show tool at top of the News Feed with apps used and way to revoke access

Facebook backlash

Facebook is facing a growing backlash on Capitol Hill as more lawmakers demand that Zuckerberg testify. Some are calling for increased regulations on big tech companies.

"Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify under oath in public before the Judiciary Committee. He owes it to the American people who ought to be deeply disappointed by the conflicting and disparate explanations that have been offered," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told reporters Monday. The former Connecticut attorney general warned, "Zuckerberg ought to be subpoenaed to testify if he won't do it voluntarily."

Meanwhile, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook has been spreading on social media. Even the founder of WhatsApp -- which Facebook bought in 2014 for $19 billion -- tweeted: "It is time #DeleteFacebook." However, it's not yet clear whether a significant number of Facebook users have actually abandoned the social network.

Facebook stock

The scandal has taken a toll on Facebook's stock price, which tumbled roughly 10 percent since Monday, knocking more than $50 billion off of its market value, before regaining some ground.

"Fake news" on Facebook platform

Shortly after the election of President Trump in November 2016, news reports examined Facebook's role as an information publisher. BuzzFeed found so-called "fake news" reached more people than real news during the campaign season, and traced more than 100 pro-Trump accounts to a single town in Macedonia.

Zuckerberg initially downplayed the findings, calling the possibility that fake news swayed the election "pretty crazy," but later said he regretted being so dismissive.

In September, Facebook revealed that it had sold about $100,000 worth of ads to fake accounts linked to Russia during the U.S. presidential campaign. The ads reached as many as 126 million people, it estimated. Faced with the threat of legislation that would require it to disclose its advertisers, Facebook rolled out a tool that allows users to check who's behind the ads they are seeing.

In February, 13 Russian actors were indicted for their role in the campaign, accused of breaking U.S. laws to meddle in the elections via advertisements and groups on Facebook. "We know we have more to do to prevent against future attacks," the company said, whose name appears 35 times in the indictment.

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