After global outcry over Facebook data theft, Mark Zuckerberg says 'time to step up'

Mark Zuckerberg has reacted after the Government of India has warned Facebook over data theft.

After global outcry over Facebook data theft, Mark Zuckerberg says 'time to step up'
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San Francisco: As Facebook got mired into its biggest-ever controversy, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has now admitted that the social media giant "made mistakes" over the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a "breach of trust" had occurred between it and its users.

"I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation - including the steps we have already taken and our next steps to address this important issue. I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again," the CEO wrote on Facebook.

"The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there's more to do, and we need to step up and do it," he added.

Facebook is facing the heat after Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting company, was accused of harvesting data of up to 50 million Facebook users without permission and using the data to help politicians, including US President Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign.

European Union (EU) and the British lawmakers have demanded that social media giant Facebook should clarify data breach following revelations that personal data was massively misused for political purposes.

In his post, Zuckerberg gave a timeline of events that happened since the inception of the platform, saying there is a need to do more.

The company would investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before it changed the platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014 and conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. 

"We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps," he said.

He said Facebook would restrict developers' data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. 

"Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you've allowed accessing your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you have used and an easy way to revoke those apps' permissions to your data," he said.

Facebook already has a tool to do this in privacy settings and now it would put this tool at the top of the News Feed to make sure everyone sees it. 

His reactions came after the Government of India (GoI) warned Mark Zuckerberg against 'data theft' and said that he can be summoned if needed.

"Mr Mark Zuckerberg you better note the observation of the IT Minister of India. We welcome the FB profile in India, but if any data theft of Indians is done through the collusion of FB system, it shall not be tolerated. We have got stringent power in the IT Act, we shall use it, including summoning you in India," Union IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Prasad said the Indian government fully supports freedom of press, speech and expression and is all for a free exchange of ideas on social media. Any attempt by social media sites, including Facebook, to influence India's electoral process through undesirable means will, however, not be tolerated, he told reporters outside Parliament.

"Let me make it very, very clear. We fully support freedom of press, speech and expression; we fully support the free exchange of ideas on social media. But any attempt, covert or overt, by social media, including Facebook, of trying to influence India's electoral process through undesirable means will neither be appreciated nor be tolerated," he said. "If need be, stringent action will be taken," Prasad added. He also said his government is looking at the issue as a matter of national security.

The warning to Facebook came even as a political slugfest continues between the ruling BJP and the Congress over allegations that the opposition party has engaged the services of British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This also comes in the context of the heat that Facebook is facing globally after Cambridge Analytica was accused of harvesting data of up to 50 million users without permission and using the data to help politicians, including US President Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and British lawmakers have launched separate probes into the potential breach of user confidentiality by Facebook.

Pointing out that 20 crore Indians were using Facebook, making it the company's largest market outside of the US, Prasad cautioned the social media giant and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg of repercussions under IT Act in case of any data breach came to light.

Asked if the government would initiate a probe on data use by Facebook, Prasad said that India had a regulator in the form of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and in case of any specific complaints, the same would be taken under a structured investigation. "We have got very robust mechanism available, we will look into it. But today, this very stern observation I gave that let my warning be heard across the Atlantic far away in California," he said.

Incidentally, this is not the first standoff between the Indian policymakers and Facebook. TRAI, in 2016, has issued regulations on discriminatory pricing over internet access that had led to a ban on platforms like Facebook's Free Basics.

(With Agency inputs)

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