Facebook To Clearly Label Political Ads

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Pledge comes as social network’s tech boss is grilled by committee of British MPs

Facebook’s technical boss is facing British a committee of British MPs after CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to attend in person.

In prepared comments before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing, chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer on Thursday reiterated that Facebook was sorry for the scandal that saw the personal information of about 87 million users improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Schroepfer revealed that Facebook is to introduce new measures to boost transparency around adverts in Britain by June this year. Indeed, it will require political ads to be clearly labelled as such.

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Political ads

Schroepfer said those wanting to run political adverts would have to complete an authorisation process and the messages would also have to display who paid for them. It comes amid concern that Facebook data was used to sway the Brexit vote in 2016.

“I want to start by echoing our CEO, Mark Zuckerberg: what happened with Cambridge Analytica represents a breach of trust, and we are deeply sorry. We made mistakes and we are taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Schroepfer was quoted by Reuters as writing in his statement.

Schroepfer said it was clear Facebook had not done enough to ensure its tools from “potentially being used for harm” or take a broad enough view of its responsibility.

“That was a mistake,” he wrote.

Unaware of terms

Schroepfer also admitted that Facebook was not aware of the data gathering of the ‘This Is Your Digital Life personality quiz’ app belonging to the Cambridge academic (Aleksandr Kogan) that harvested data of 87 million people.

“We require that people have a terms and conditions and we have an automated check there at the time — this was in 2014, maybe earlier,” Schroepfer said. “We did not read all of the terms and conditions.”

When Schroepfer was asked if Facebook had informed the Information Commissioners Office, he said it had not.

“I don’t think we did,” he replied. When he was pressed as to why, he added: “At the time, we thought the matter was resolved. We had received legal certification from all the parties involved that the data was not there again.”

US congress

Earlier this month Mark Zuckerberg testified before two committees in the US Congress.

He successfully resisted calls to support new regulations governing the platform, or to change how it conducts its business.

He repeated his previous apologies and admitted that Cambridge Analytica had also managed to gather his own personal Facebook data as well.

He told the US Congress that Facebook may take action against Cambridge University for its role in providing the data in question to the London political consultancy.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also plans to investigate Facebook over the matter.

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