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After four days of silence following the reveal that a data analytics firm with ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign exploited the private data of more than 50 million Facebook users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday went on a media tour in which he called the incident “a major breach of trust.”
The executive sat down with CNN’s Laurie Segall for his first televised interview since Facebook has come under fire for leaving its user data exposed to companies like Cambridge Analytica, which accessed the private information of Facebook users to sway sentiment about the 2016 presidential campaign. In the interview, which aired Wednesday evening on Anderson Cooper 360, Zuckerberg revealed that following the incident, Facebook will review “thousands of apps” that had access to user data prior to 2014, when the company blocked apps from mining such information. “This is going to be an intensive process, but this is important,” he added.
Facebook has faced a backlash over the last week for its silence over a New York Times report that Cambridge Analytica had bought information about Facebook users, gathered via an app that was running using the Facebook platform, to sway voter sentiment. A campaign to convince Facebook users to delete the app has also picked up steam, including garnering the support of one of the founders of WhatsApp, a company that sold to Facebook for $19 billion.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg broke their silence and responded to concerns over user privacy via a pair of posts in which they highlighted the changes that the company will be making to its platform.
The first step that Zuckerberg said Facebook will take is to investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of data before the company implemented its new data policies in 2014. “We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit,” he wrote in his post, adding that any app found to have misused personal information will also be banned from the platform.
Second, Facebook will further restrict app developers’ access to data by blocking access to a person’s data if they haven’t used the app in the last three months and requiring developers to get signed approval to ask a person for access to additional data.
In his interview with CNN, Zuckerberg also fielded questions about whether the government should place regulations on Facebook. “I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” the exec admitted, noting that “the question is more, what is the right regulation, rather than yes or no.”
Zuckerberg also responded to questions about why he hasn’t personally testified before Congress about Facebook’s role in allowing Kremlin-backed groups to try to sway the election. “I’m happy to testify, if it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I imagine at some point there will be a topic where I am the sole authority.” Zuckerberg went on to acknowledge that there is an element of accountability when he publicly addresses a problem. “I should be out there doing more interviews,” he said. “I should be out there and being asked hard questions by journalists.”
In addition to the CNN appearance, Zuckerberg also sat for interviews with several outlets including Wired, where he admitted that he “can’t really say” definitively that Facebook data didn’t get into the hands of Russian operatives or other groups. “I hope that we will know that more certainly after we do an audit,” he said. “I don’t want to jump to conclusions about what is going to be turned up once we complete this audit.”
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