Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s response to what he referred to as the Cambridge Analytica “situation” – in which 50 million Facebook users reportedly had their profiles accessed without permission by the research firm – sounded a lot like a mea culpa laced with promises to do better in the future. It came across as notably empty, from a guy who has been under tremendous pressure to say something in recent days.
Following a lengthy post on Facebook, Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNN Wednesday night: "I’m really sorry this happened. We have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data.”
Is Zuckerberg sorry this happened, or sorry for his role in compromising the privacy of 50 million Facebook users?
As he went through the timeline of events in his statement on the Cambridge Analytica “situation,” Zuckerberg talked about years 2007, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
However, the one big glaring hole in his timeline is 2012. While not directly connected to Cambridge Analytica, this missing piece of the puzzle exposes the culture of Facebook and how the company approach the privacy of its users.
In a series of tweets this week, former Obama for America Director of Integration and Media Analytics Carol Davidsen divulged how the 2012 Obama campaign was able to gain control of Facebook’s social graph. This enabled the campaign to capture data on users’ friends by getting Facebook users to log into the campaign website via their Facebook pages.
“Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,” Davidsen tweeted.
“They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” she continued on Twitter.
“I worked on all of the data integration projects at OFA (Obama for America). This was the only one that felt creepy, even though we played by the rules, and didn’t do anything I felt was ugly, with the data,” Davidsen tweeted.
In case there is any question about what the Obama campaign was really doing – and what Facebook was complicit in by allowing the campaign to do it – Sasha Issenberg spelled it out in no uncertain terms.
Back in 2012 Issenberg – author of “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns” – wrote in MIT’s Technology Review that the information the Obama campaign was able to learn from Facebook was used in conjunction with other information like voter-registration lists.
Isenberg said this led to “a new political currency that predicted the behavior of individual humans. The campaign didn’t just know who you were; it knew exactly how it could turn you into the type of person it wanted you to be.”
All the while Facebook users were completely in the dark. Paging George Orwell.
Zuckerberg also conveniently failed to address 2010, when Facebook announced it was getting rid of a policy where it only stored information for up to 24 hours. While in 2015 the company changed its approach and tightened it up, this speaks to a pattern of playing loose with the security of Facebooks users.
So while now Zuckerberg claims he has an obligation to protect data of users, his history tells a very different story.
Zuckerberg broke his silence Wednesday and embarked on an orchestrated media campaign beginning with a lengthy statement comprised of a whole lot of words that said a whole lot of nothing. Not by accident, he ended the day on CNN, an Obama-friendly network, knowing he’d be in a safe space when it came to year 2012.
Now Zuckerberg is finally speaking to the media in an effort at damage control. While its highly unlikely is that Facebook is in jeopardy of going bottom-up anytime soon, too many secrets are being divulged concerning collusion between the technology we use and the liberal political agenda.
Turns out Big Brother really is watching, and he just launched a media campaign to tell us he’s not.