Facebook under fire over claims Trump consultants extracted data
Federal lawmakers demand answers, after reports claim Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis of the company linked to the Trump campaign, retained personal data of more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission; and historian Niall Ferguson weighs.
The phrase “silence is golden” originated in the English language, in 1831. But when the silence comes to a self-described “abuse of trust” of a $500 billion technology giant and the highest profile directors, it could be described as no other than deafening.
Since the news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a data-research company, allegedly improperly approached 50 million Facebook users profiles, there is a strong response from the regulators, the users, the media consultants and almost every person on the planet with an opinion. Facebook has been working to try and get the story for, the issuance of multiple press releases, including a late Friday night for several stories were set to be published about the case.
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But Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder, CEO and the man who said that his personal challenge for 2018 was to fix Facebook, it is completely silent. Sheryl Sandberg, the company normally loquacious COO, especially when it comes to advertising, examples, has also been silent.
“Oil on the fire”
“They have oil on the fire in terms of the growing concern [about] how this Cambridge Analytica fiasco could ignite further regulations and / or other changes to the business model of the company,” Ives, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Technology Research at GBH Insights told Fox News.
“The lack of a response, particularly that of Sandberg with Zuckerberg front and center is a frustration, and the longer they take to respond, the wider the situation from a legal perspective in Washington and in the EU, politicians are frustrated,” he added.
Some of Facebook’s top executives, including Chief Security Officer Alex you will make, whose role in business has changed, and Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, the current vice-president of virtual and augmented reality, and former vice-president of Ads, have taken to social media to try and help shape the story that the company is working to fix the problems. (You will make later deleted his tweets on the Cambridge Analytica, says he “should have done a better job with a weight.”)
Zuckerberg, who regularly takes to his Facebook page to discuss topics ranging from the management of the company updates to share photos of his children, has been silent since March 2. That day, he posted a photo of him and his wife, Vanessa, baking hamentashen for the Jewish holiday of Purim.
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Like Zuckerberg, Sandberg also used its Facebook page regularly to discuss company-related issues, and to share life updates. Her most recent post was on 17 March, showing off photos of “kid debate day.”
A committee of U. K. lawmakers have written to Zuckerberg asking him to personally address the problem in front of them in London. Zuckerberg has yet to make a formal response at the time of this writing.
Sandberg, who previously worked for the government, under the then Minister of finance, Larry Summers during the Clinton administration, is yet to be asked to formal by the lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News or Zuckerberg or Sandberg would be publicly addressing the issue.
Perhaps rightly so, comment in the direction of Zuckerberg is quick and overly negative.
Mark Zuckerberg will go down in history as a tragic figure, and one that suits an age of billionaire savior delusions. He claimed that to change the world, even if he disfigured his country. He promised to rid the world of diseases, while ignoring the disease he was spreading.
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) March 19, 2018
Why is Mark Zuckerberg not have to answer in public for the fact that @facebook ALLOWED Cambridge Analytica to get access to 50 million users info and purpose of the voters to swing elections…where is the accountability?
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) March 19, 2018
I wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking @facebook for detail the extent of abuse of the users of private information: pic.twitter.com/N9CYC50AHG
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 19, 2018
Spreading like a brush fire
Ives noted that the public faces of the company are Zuckerberg and Sandberg and everyone is just background noise. “The longer this takes and the longer this brush fire spreads, it goes from a background sound to a more front and center risk for the company and the investors,” he said.
Robert Seamans, associate professor of Management and Organizations at the University of New York said that there is a good reason why Zuckerberg and Sandberg have added a note, brands perhaps they are trying to still collect all of the information that is needed in place of ‘ say something fast for the sake of something to say.”
However, Seamans added that he is surprised that Facebook is “not yet taken a more active role in the supervision or regulation of itself, especially in the light of the changes we know are happening in Europe, and in the light of the FTC’s 2011 consent decree.”
Early Tuesday morning, media reports said that the US Federal Trade Commission (ftc), an independent government agency tasked with “the protection of the consumer,” is probing the company’s use of personal data.
The company has come under fire from lawmakers after it announced at the weekend was the suspension of Cambridge Analytica, who has ties with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
In Washington, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told ABC News’ “This Week” that Cambridge Analytica work deserved further investigation by the panel.
“We need to find out what we can about the eclipse of the privacy, the personal data of tens of millions of Americans,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said.
Schiff pointed out that the commission had just done an interview with Alexander Nix, the head of the british company. “Even then it was with a video conference on the GOP’s insistence,” he said.
In a separate statement, Schiff said Facebook must “answer important questions about the reasons why it provided private information for the user, to an academic, how they have informed users in advance of these types of data transfer, and if he can prove that the data has been destroyed. They must also answer questions about how they notified users about this breach of their personal data.”
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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was important to find out “who knew what when?”
“This is a big deal, when you that the amount of the data,” Flake said. “And the privacy violations there are significant. So the question is, who knew? When did they know it? How long was this? And what happens to that data now?”
“The lack of transparent, honest communication is of great technical managers is nothing new and totally expected when it comes to issues of abuse by a user,” added Bill Ottman, CEO of social network Minds.com in an e-mail to Fox News.
What is the next
For now, the world is waiting on responses from both Zuckerberg and Sandberg. It is absolutely necessary that the two greatest people on the world’s largest social network for the law or the risk of a further erosion of the trust.
“At the end of the day, Facebook and other social media platforms are entrusted with our data and they need to finally answer for this in the eyes of the users, politicians and investors,” Ives said. “If they don’t make sure the situation is included, then this will be a much bigger problem.”
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Sam Steward contributed to this report. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia