Zuckerberg Says Cambridge Analytica Collected His Own Data

Mark Zuckerberg’s own Facebook data was acquired by Cambridge Analytica along with that of about 87 million other users, the social network chief executive said in his second day of testimony before the US Congress.

He also said Facebook may take action against Cambridge University for its role in providing the data in question to the London political consultancy.

“What we found now is that there’s a whole programme associated with Cambridge University where… there were a number of other researchers building similar apps,” Mr Zuckerberg said, according to the BBC. “So, we do need to understand whether there was something bad going on at Cambridge University overall that will require a stronger reaction from us.”

Cambridge University said the research Zuckerberg alluded to has been published since 2013 in major scientific journals and widely reported on in international media. The university said it would be “surprised” if the Facebook chief was only now becoming aware of the university’s activities.

Data controls

Zuckerberg is facing a grilling before lawmakers on matters related to Cambridge Analytica’s allegedly improper acquisition of Facebook data for use in the 2016 US presidential campaign, along with Russia’s alleged use of the platform to spread misinformation. Cambridge Analytica and Russia both deny wrongdoing.

On Tuesday the social media tycoon took questions from the US Senate for nearly five hours, but resisted repeated efforts to get him to support new regulation.

On Wednesday morning, dressed as the day before in a dark suit, he told the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee he disagreed with assessments that users aren’t able to control their data.

“Every time that someone chooses to share something on Facebook… there is a control. Right there. Not buried in the settings somewhere but right there,” he said, according to Reuters.

And yet, Zuckerberg admitted he had not been able to stop his own data from being collected by Cambridge Analytica. When asked whether his information had been involved in the incident, he responded “yes”, without elaborating further.

Self-regulation ‘does not work’

House members’ questions focused on what they said appeared to be Facebook’s failure to regulate itself, which could mean further controls by the state.

Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky read out from a list of Zuckerberg’s many apologies, dating back to the 33-year-old’s days as a Harvard student. Zuckerberg has also apologised for the more recent scandals.

“This is proof to me that self-regulation simply does not work,” Schakowsky said, according to The Guardian.

She concluded her queries with the rhetorical question, “Who is going to protect us from Facebook?”

Robert Latta, an Ohio Republican, brought up a 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over deceptive practices with regard to its promises over user privacy.

Facebook submitted to audits as part of that settlement, but the audits didn’t uncover the Cambridge Analytica issues, Latta pointed out, asking Zuckerberg why that was the case.

The Facebook chief said that while the Cambridge Analytica data was a breach of trust, he didn’t believe it violated the terms of the consent decree.

No financial penalty?

Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette made the point that Facebook hasn’t suffered financially for multiple scandals over the privacy of users’ data, meaning there is no financial incentive for it to change its behaviour.

Zuckerberg resisted calls to support new legislation imposing more controls on the way it handles data, and hasn’t committed to changing the way the company does business. Investors rewarded him on Tuesday with the firm’s biggest daily gain in nearly two years, with its share price closing up 4.5 percent.

Republican Senator John Kennedy said on Tuesday he would support regulation if he didn’t believe Facebook was serious about better protecting its data.

“I don’t want to have to vote to regulate Facebook, but by God, I will,” he told Zuckerberg. “A lot of that depends on you.”

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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