Facebook Data Breach: Mark Zuckerberg Promises to Take Measure to Ensure Facebook Is Not Misused To Influence Elections in India and Elsewhere

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologized to Facebook users and promised to take measures to ensure that the Facebook user data is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere. He said he was sure that “someone is trying” to meddle in elections via Facebook.

“This is a massive focus for us to make sure we’re dialed in for not only the 2018 elections in the US, but the Indian elections, the Brazilian elections, and a number of other elections that are going on this year that are really important,” Zuckerberg told the New York Times in an interview.

This year, voters in several key states in India will cast their votes to elect a new state government, ahead of general elections in 2019.

Zuckerberg said he is sorry for allowing Cambridge Analytica to gain access to the personal data of nearly 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. He admitted that Facebook had made mistakes and vowed to fix it. Zuckerberg is also ready to “testify” before US Congress.

In a post on Facebook Zuckerberg said that he has been “working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“I promise you we’ll work through this and build a better service over the long term.”

Mr. Ravi Prasad, Indian Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, has alleged that Congress Party used Cambridge Analytica during Gujarat elections to influence voters. The minister said his ministry has been watching the ongoing developments and might summon Zuckerberg if required. An enquiry may also be launched to investigate whether Facebook had a role in influencing elections in India, Mr. Prasad told ET.

In his post, Zuckerberg promised to conduct “a full audit of any app with suspicious activity.” He said thousands of apps would be reviewed. Developers who don’t agree to a thorough audit or those who misused users’ personal data would be banned.

Facebook will inform all the users whose personal data was misused by Cambridge Analytica.

“That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well,” he said.

It was researcher Aleksandr Kogan who passed on the data of nearly 50 million users to Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica scandal has American politics as well as several other countries around the world. The scandal surfaced after a whistleblower revealed to the Observer that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm with ties to Trump’s 2016 campaign, had harvested the personal data from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. The data was then used to create powerful personality prediction app to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. The app targeted US Facebook users with personalized political advertisements.

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on,” Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer.

According to the Guardian, the data was collected through the app called thisisyourdigitallife, created by academic Aleksandr Kogan.

Thousands of Facebook users were paid by Kogan’s firm Global Science Research (in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica) to take a personality test. These users gave their consent to have their data collected for academic use. However, the app created a data pool of millions of Facebook users by also collecting the data of test-takers’ Facebook friends.

Cambridge Analytica is owned by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. In 2016, it was headed by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon.

Zuckerberg said that it was a mistake to trust Cambridge Analytica in 2015 when it promised Facebook that it would delete the data of Facebook users.

[Featured Image by Pixabay]