business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports this morning that Facebook is saying that “the data of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with a political consulting firm connected to President Trump during the 2016 election — a figure far higher than the estimate of 50 million that had been widely cited since the leak was reported last month … Facebook had not previously disclosed how many accounts had been harvested by Cambridge Analytica, the firm connected to the Trump campaign. It has also been reluctant to disclose how it was used by Russian-backed actors to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

Other noteworthy passages from the Times story:

“Among Facebook’s acknowledgments on Wednesday was the disclosure of a vulnerability in its search and account recovery functions that it said could have exposed ‘most’ of its 2 billion users to having their public profile information harvested.”

“Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, also announced that Facebook would offer all of its users the same tools and controls required under European privacy rules. The European rules, which go into effect next month, give people more control over how companies use their digital data.”

“The company said that on Monday it would start telling users whether their information may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica.”

Facebook “said it would limit the types of data that can be harvested by software used by outside businesses. The changes mean that users will have to give permission before an app can collect information beyond their names and addresses. The company also said it would no longer allow outsiders to use apps to gather information about the religious or political views of its users.”

“It’s clear now that we didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is. That was a huge mistake, and it was my mistake.”
KC's View:

Actually, that is a huge admission for Zuckerberg … that would’ve been a lot more timely if he hadn’t waited so long to make it.

Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

Expect wall-to-wall coverage on cable TV. I, for one, can’t wait. I may even have it catered.

One other thing. My suspicion is that next Monday, when people start hearing from Facebook that their information may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica, the outrage is going to get a lot more personal and lot more amplified.