’s Cambridge Analytica crisis keeps growing
CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers a keynote address during the f8 conference on September 22, 2011, in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
It’s been a rough few days for .
The Menlo Park, California-based company is under siege from lawmakers, regulators, users, shareholders, and even its own employees amid revelations that Cambridge Analytics, a data analytics firm used by the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, secretly harvested personal data from 50 million of its users.
The saga began on Friday evening, when posted a statement announcing it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and its British parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories, from its platform. said its policies had been violated when Cambridge University scholar Aleksandr Kogan passed the data of millions of users, obtained through a personality test app, to Cambridge and SCL.
A pair of blockbuster reports from the New York Times and the UK’s Observer released Saturday explained the scope of the problem: Cambridge Analytica collected the data not only of the approximately 270,000 users who agreed to take Kogan’s personality quiz but also their friends, thus harvesting information on tens of millions of people without their knowledge or permission.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign also used Cambridge Analytica — according to the Center for Responsive Politics, his campaign paid the firm $5.9 million during the 2016 election. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and Super PACs supporting him paid the firm millions of dollars as well.
The reports about have sparked widespread backlash, and the company’s efforts to minimize the situation have fallen short. has tried to explain that what happened technically doesn’t count as a “data breach” and has hired a digital forensics firm to audit Cambridge Analytica. But it’s sort of too little, too late.
The fallout hit hard and fast over the weekend as the Times and Observer stories broke. The company has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market cap, and the hashtag #Delete is percolating on .
There are reports that the company’s chief security officer is headed for the exit.
And as lawmakers in the US and Europe call for to shape up and explain what happened, it appears the tech giant’s troubles are far from over.
stock has plunged, and it could face an investigation
’s stock, which hit a new all-time high on February 1, has plunged. Its shares fell by nearly 7 percent on Monday, their worst one-day drop in about four years, and sparked a tech selloff on Wall Street. ’s stock fell as much as 5 percent on Tuesday and ended the day down 2.5 percent.
Tuesday’s selloff was sparked, in part, by reports that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC is probing whether violated the terms of a 2012 consent decree when it agreed to get user consent for collecting personal data and sharing it with others.
If the FTC finds that was indeed in violation, it could face millions of dollars in fines.
Members of Congress are mad
The FTC isn’t the only one looking into what ’s been up to.
US lawmakers in both parties are calling for investigations. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday asking the executive for answers, including that he list every instance in the past 10 years where a third-party company violated ’s privacy rules while collecting user data.
“They say ‘trust us,’ but Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about what knew about misusing data from 50 million Americans in order to target political advertising and manipulate voters,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said in a statement.
“This is a big deal, when you have that amount of data, and the privacy violations there are significant,” Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said in an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “So the question is who knew it and when did they know it, how long did this go on and what happens to that data now.”
and other tech executives appeared at hearings before House and Senate committees last fall to discuss the 2016 election and Russian influence of it, but it appears they may be headed for a trip back.
“I think it’s time for the CEO, Mr. Zuckerberg, and other top officials to come and testify and not tell part of the story, but tell the whole story of their involvement — not only with the Trump campaign but their ability to have their platform misused by the Russians,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC News.
When asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Sunday if he believes told the Senate Intelligence Committee everything that was done with their users, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he didn’t. “I think we’ve learned that the hard way. Every time that we’ve spoken to them it’s kind of rolled out as more come out,” he said.
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) told the Washington Post on Sunday he believes it would be “beneficial” for Zuckerberg and other major tech CEOs to testify before congressional oversight committees.
The outrage isn’t confined to the US
Members of the British Parliament have sent a letter to Zuckerberg calling for him to appear before a select committee. The ICO, the UK’s data protection agency, is in the process of getting a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s premises and will investigate the data scandal.
European Union officials have said they plan to probe the matter as well. Antonio Tajani, head of the European Parliament, tweeted that “allegations of misuse of user data is an unacceptable violation” of citizens’ privacy rights. The EU’s justice chief, Věra Jourová, described the news as “horrifying, if confirmed.” She said she plans to meet with while on an official visit to the US.
has a lot of internal problems too
The Cambridge Analytica and data reports have caused internal turmoil at as well.
Alex Stamos, ’s chief security officer, plans to leave the company, according to a report from the New York Times. Stamos said in a tweet on Monday that “despite the rumors,” he is still “fully engaged” with his work at , though his role has changed. “I’m currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security,” he said.
Despite the rumors, I'm still fully engaged with my work at . It's true that my role did change. I'm currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security.
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) March 19, 2018
The tweet does not say he plans to stay at indefinitely, and Recode reports that Stamos does indeed plan to leave.
Stamos, who joined from Yahoo in 2015, over the weekend tweeted and then deleted an explanation of what happened with Cambridge Analytica and argued against characterizing it as a “breach.” He said he deleted the tweets “not because they were factually incorrect but because I should have done a better job weighing in.”
On Tuesday, scheduled an open meeting for all employees so they could ask questions about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a report from The Verge. Paul Grewal, the company’s deputy general counsel, was slated to lead the meeting.
Zuckerberg, who as a result of ’s stock slump has lost about $9 billion over the past two days, has not yet weighed in publicly.
What the future holds for is unclear. It is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has survived crises before. And, let’s be honest, as much as you might want to #Delete, it’s really hard to quit — which is part of the problem.
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Stock Hits New All-Time High Despite A Pretty Bad News Day
Updated Aug 6, 2020, 05:06pm EDT
stock hit an all-time high on Thursday, closing 6.5% up on the day at $265, despite a wave of negative headlines, from criticism of its moderation of toxic posts against women to further rebukes over how it handles misleading political posts, especially from conservative sources.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, … [+] Commercial and Administrative Law on “Online Platforms and Market Power” in the Rayburn House office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 29, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
More than 30 U.S.
House Democrats and over 60 other international lawmakers signed a letter sent to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sherly Sandberg on Thursday that demanded the social media giant do more to prevent hate speech and threatening posts targeted at women in politics, writing, “It is past time to take a stand, and safeguard online spaces to allow all voices to be heard without manipulation, harassment or intimidation.”
While House Republicans spent much of their time during a Big Tech hearing on July 29 accusing and other social media platforms of anti-conservative bias, a Buzzfeed investigation published Thursday cited employees who found evidence that often gives preferential treatment to clear fact-checking strikes against major right-wing voices, which would stave off demonetization on the site.
During an all-hands meeting following the release of the report, Zuckerberg called out employees who leaked information, saying, “Part of that culture means we need to take a pretty heavy hand when people violate that trust,” according to the article's co-author Ryan Mac.
Zuckerberg additionally would not entirely address a question on whether has a plan if President Trump declares the results of the November presidential election invalid, saying instead that it's “unprecedented territory.”
Related to the election, removed hundreds of accounts promoting conspiracy theories and fake news to promote Trump's reelection bid, ly fueling further worries the company isn't prepared to moderate disinformation as the presidential election draws closer.
Despite the controversies throughout the day, closed at an all-time high stock price of $265.28, similar to how the Big Tech stocks closed higher on the day following their hearings in Congress on July 29.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.
) commented on the Buzzfeed investigation: “Remember when I asked Zuckerberg why he allowed a white supremacist-linked org to be an official fact-checker for and he wouldn’t give a straight answer? Maybe this is why: ’s right-wing radicalization funnels are looking increasingly intentional and designed.
The incentives are certainly there. Dems believe in antitrust, reigning in monopolies and checking abuse of corporate power. Zuckerberg himself said he’d go 'to the mat and fight' against these points. Could that include weaponizing ’s platform to influence our elections?”
Soon after BuzzFeed published its story, announced it would put a temporary ad ban on the Committee to Defend the President, a pro-Trump super pac, according to MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin.
“As a result of the Committee to Defend the President's repeated sharing of content determined by third-party fact-checkers to be false, they will not be permitted to advertise for a period of time.
” In February, representatives for former President Barack Obama sent a ceases-and-desist letter to the pac over its manipulation of his words to allege former Vice President Joe Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president this year, supported “plantation politics.”
On Wednesday, removed a false post from President Trump claiming children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus, the first time it's done so following heavy criticism over its relaxed standards against the president.
Conservatives have levied criticism against the company for “censoring” certain posts, for example, regarding hydroxychloroquine, which numerous studies have found does not help alleviate Covid-19 symptoms.
Democrats continue to criticize for profiting off pages touting conspiracy theories, such as the anti-vaxx Plandemic video.
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