One of Facebook’s early mottos was “move fast and break things.” Fourteen years into the company’s existence, it might have shattered its users’ trust.
On Monday, the “New York Times” and the “Guardian” reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data-analysis firm, captured private data of 50 million Facebook users and utilized it to help spread propaganda and disinformation to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The data capture was not a breach; it was akin to walking through the front door — Facebook made the information readily accessible.
Facebook’s stock dropped 9 percent on Monday and another 9 percent on Tuesday. Senators demanded Mark Zuckerberg testify before Congress. The company may be subject to trillions — yes, trillions — of dollars in fines for violating Federal Trade Commission privacy rules.
Not helping the PR fiasco: Esquire UK resurfaced an IM exchange that Zuckerberg had as a 19-year-old college student, in which he told a friend he had access to private information on anyone at Harvard and that people were “dumb fucks” for turning it over to him.
The chat went like this:
ZUCK: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
ZUCK: just ask
ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what!? how’d you manage that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: i don’t know why
ZUCK: they “trust me”
ZUCK: dumb fucks
The IMs were originally leaked to “Silicon Alley Insider” and verified by “The New Yorker” in a 2006 story in which Zuckerberg said he “absolutely” regretted the conversation and had changed. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?” he said. “I think I’ve grown and learned a lot.”
But evidence is growing that Zuckerberg — and Facebook, as it grew into a massive corporation — maintained a louche attitude toward users’ personal data. “This is a major breach that must be investigated,” tweeted Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). “It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves. I’ve called for more transparency & accountability for online political ads. They say ‘trust us.’ Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary.”