December 15, 2018
Latest News
Science & Technology

Facebook CEO: Lax privacy a huge mistake

 People walks past Facebook's 'Like' icon signage in front of their campus building in Menlo Park, California, USA, Mar. 30, 2018. EPA-EFE/FILE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

People walks past Facebook's 'Like' icon signage in front of their campus building in Menlo Park, California, USA, Mar. 30, 2018. EPA-EFE/FILE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

San Francisco, USA, Apr 5 (efe-epa).- Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that he made a "huge mistake" in not focusing more on potential abuse of users' personal information, as the social media giant he founded revealed that data breaches were far more extensive than previously known, according to a report from the Dow Jones Newswires made available to EFE Thursday.

Zuckerberg's most direct mea culpa to date came as Facebook disclosed Wednesday that data from as many as 87 million of its users may have been improperly shared with an analytics firm tied to the 2016 campaign of United States President Donald Trump, up from the 50 million previously reported. It said about 70.6 million of the users were in the US.

Facebook released the higher figure in a statement laying out several updates to its service intended to better protect the privacy of users and increase their control over how their information is shared.

In Australia, where Facebook put the number of affected users at 311,000, the privacy watchdog said Thursday that it is investigating whether privacy laws had been breached.

In another revelation, the company said "most people on Facebook" could have had information scraped by marketers who used a feature that distributed profile data connected to users' email addresses and phone numbers.

Facebook said it has now disabled the feature.

The disclosures came as the company is stepping up its efforts to repair trust with regulators and the public in the wake of several controversies tied to the election.

Zuckerberg's remarks, made in a conference call with reporters, served as a trial run of sorts for his testimony on Capitol Hill next week, where the 33-year-old billionaire is expected to be grilled on how the company handles its customers' data.

Facebook has about 239 million monthly users in the US and Canada, and 3.2 billion monthly users worldwide.

Facebook has come under heavy criticism after it was revealed earlier this year that the analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, obtained Facebook user information on tens of millions of users. It also faces questions over the proliferation of "fake news" and the presence of Russian operatives on the service during the race.

In the conference call, Zuckerberg said he erred when he dismissed the threat of fake news as "crazy" shortly after the 2016 election. "What is clear at this point is that it was too flippant," Zuckerberg said.

He called Facebook "an idealistic and optimistic company," and suggested it might have more disclosures to make soon. "We're going to keep on looking for things, we're going to keep on finding more, and we'll update you then," he said.

Zuckerberg will testify before Senate and House panels next week. Late Wednesday two Senate committees announced a joint hearing on April 10 where Zuckerberg will appear as the sole witness. The hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee will focus on social media and the use and abuse of user data, according to a release.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.) said the hearing will be "a public conversation with the CEO of this powerful and influential company about his vision for addressing problems that have generated significant concern about Facebook's role in our democracy, bad actors using the platform, and user privacy."

"This hearing will explore approaches to privacy that satisfy consumer expectations while encouraging innovation," said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), the Judiciary Committee chairman, in a statement.

Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear the next day, on April 11, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees many telecommunications and internet policy issues. The hearing will focus on "the company's use and protection of user data," the panel said in its announcement, but lawmakers can also press Mr. Zuckerberg on other matters, according to the Dow Jones report.

The Senate and House hearings are expected to place Zuckerberg in the kind of unpredictable spectacle he has largely avoided.

His public appearances, in internal gatherings with employees or during his tour of America last year, have often been tightly scripted. Zuckerberg recently declined to appear before a United Kingdom parliamentary committee seeking evidence on how companies acquire user data from Facebook, choosing to send a deputy instead.

Zuckerberg's first public testimony before Congress would mark a pivotal moment for the 14-year-old company.

A series of revelations over the past year have shaken user trust in Facebook's products. On March 16, Facebook acknowledged that user data was improperly obtained by Cambridge Analytica.

Six months before that, Facebook disclosed that it had been exploited by Russian-backed propagandists in an attempt to sow divisions in the US.

Facebook has taken steps to address criticisms from its users, regulators and lawmakers. On Tuesday, it announced that it had identified and removed a new batch of 135 accounts on its site linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency troll farm.

To address concerns about privacy, the social network is releasing greater detail about how it collects and deploys vast troves of information about users, proposing revisions to its terms of service and data policy on Wednesday. The documents mark the company's first major update to its privacy disclosures since 2015.

The proposed policies don't ask users for new permissions or change the preferences they have set in the past, but instead lay out more information about how the network operates. The documents describe how Facebook deploys user data to customize the posts and ads users see and the circumstances under which it shares data, among other things. The revised terms also remind users that Facebook shares information with its Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus units.

The policy revision builds on an announcement Facebook made in late March that it will make it simpler for users to examine and change some of the data the network tracks.

"This is about making the information about how we use people's data and how people can control it more clear," Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer at Facebook, said in an interview. He said Facebook has been working on the proposed policies for months and will seek public comments before implementing them.

How Facebook articulates its terms of service to its users is important because the company came under fire from the Federal Trade Commission in 2011. The agency said it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information private, but then allowed it to be made public.

A subsequent settlement with the FTC required the company to give consumers notice before sharing information beyond their data settings. The FTC is now investigating Facebook over how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data.

Facebook's Sherman said protecting people's privacy is critically important to the company, but didn't comment further on Facebook's interactions with the FTC.

"One of the ideas underlying the FTC consent decree is that we should be clear with people about how we use their information and give them meaningful choices around that," Sherman said. "And that is what we are trying to do with this update."

By Georgia Wells and John D. McKinnon

News history
Vietnamese company launches new cellphone brand designed in Spain

Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Dec 14 (efe-epa).- Vietnamese company Vingroup launched a new brand of smartphones designed and developed by Spanish firm BQ in Ho...

Branson's space-tourism company rockets out of atmosphere for first time

Los Angeles, Dec 13 (efe-epa).- Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's space-tourism venture, reached the edge of space in a test flight Thursday, four years...

Mexico awards science and technology prize to Uruguayan doctor

Montevideo, Dec 12 (epa-efe).- The Mexican Embassy here on Wednesday presented its annual science and technology award to Uruguay's Dr. Rafael Radi for his...

China introduces credit-based security check for air passengers

Hong Kong, China, Dec 11 (efe-epa).- The airport in Shenzhen city, one of the tech hubs in China, has introduced a new system under which passengers with...

Nobel 2018 Prize Ceremony in Stockholm

Stockholm, Dec 10 (efe-epa).- Science tries to solve the problems of Humanity, but also knows how to have fun, as shown on Monday night at the Nobel banquet...

OSIRIS-REx space probe discovers indications of water on asteroid Bennu

Washington, Dec 10 (efe-epa).- The OSIRIS-REx space probe, which since last week has been orbiting the asteroid Bennu, has discovered the presence of water...

Mexican students create prototype for transforming water into fuel

Mexico City, Dec 10 (efe-epa).- Mexican students at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) have created a prototype of a hydrogen-generating device that...

Internet Archive aims to create giant digital library

San Francisco, Dec 10 (efe-epa).- The ancient Library of Alexandria was a massive project that more than 2,200 years ago sought to gather together all human...

China launches probe to explore dark side of moon

Beijing, Dec 8 (efe-epa).- China launched the Chang'e 4 lunar probe on Saturday morning, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Russian tech startup showcases flying taxi prototype in demonstration flight

Moscow, Dec 7 (efe-epa).- Technicians from a Russian technology startup on Friday demonstrated the features of its newest electric air taxi prototype, as...

China launches two Saudi Arabian reconnaissance satellites into space

Beijing, Dec 7 (efe-epa).- China launched two Saudi Arabian reconnaissance satellites on Friday from its Jiuquan base in the northwestern part of the...

Chile presents in Miami shopping bag that dissolves in water in 3 minutes

Miami, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- Patricio Cabezas submerges a plastic shopping bag in water and three minutes later it has completely dissolved but, not content...

EU robot fine-tunes roving skills in Sahara desert for future Mars missions

Gare Medwar (Morocco), Dec 4 (efe-epa).- A pioneering robotics technology, financed entirely by the European Commission and enabling autonomous...

Scientists detect biggest collision of black holes ever observed

Sydney, Australia, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- A team of scientists detected the gravitational waves that resulted from the biggest collision of black holes ever...

Soyuz successfully launches toward ISS for 1st time since emergency landing

Moscow, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- A Soyuz spacecraft with three crewmembers on-board blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan en route to the...

Changing pitch of whale songs could be linked to climate change

Sydney, Australia, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- A drop in the pitch intensity of whale songs in the last few decades could be related to climate change and an increase...

Booster rocket, spacecraft taken to pad ahead of launch from Kazakhstan

Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Dec 1 (efe-epa).- The Soyuz-FG booster rocket and Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft were transferred Saturday by train to the launch pad at...

51 stranded pilot whales die in New Zealand

Sydney, Australia, Nov 30 (EFE).- At least 51 stranded pilot whales died in Hanson Bay, on New Zealand's Chatham islands, the Department of Conservation...

Moon rocks sell for $855,000

New York, Nov 29 (efe-epa).- The only documented moon rocks still in private hands sold Thursday at Sotheby's New York auction house for $850,000.

Scientists isolate, synthesize and test a number of platypus proteins leading to the discovery of new antimicrobial

Sydney, Australia, Nov 29 (efe-epa).- Around 30 percent of the platypus population may have disappeared since the British colonized Australia in the late...

India successfully launches 31 satellites aboard single rocket

New Delhi, Nov 29 (efe-epa).- India on Thursday successfully launched a rocket into space, carrying 31 satellites from nine different countries, including...

Study: Latin America's digital evolution occurring at moderate pace

Miami, Nov 28 (efe-epa).- The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are making strides toward digital transformation, with sustained growth in the...

China's Ministry of Science concerned over genetic modification case

Beijing, Nov 28 (efe-epa).- China's Ministry of Science and Technology expressed concern over the alleged genetic modification of the DNA of two twin girls...

Chinese scientist defends genetic modification experiment

Hong Kong, Nov 28 (efe-epa).- A Chinese scientist defended his experiment on Wednesday in which he claims to have created the first genetically modified...

I agree Welcome to We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.