Facebook unfazed from data protection scandal, reports 63% profit rise
YEREVAN, APRIL 26, ARMENPRESS. Facebook Inc shares rose on Wednesday after the social network reported a surprisingly strong 63 percent rise in profit and an increase in users, with no sign that business was hurt by a scandal over the mishandling of personal data, Financial Express reported.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal generated calls for regulation and for users to leave the social network.
Facebook generates revenue primarily by selling advertising personalized to its users.
New regulation could make Facebook’s ads less lucrative by reducing the kinds of data it can use to personalize and target ads to users.
Earlier on April 11 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent five hours testifying to the US Senate, defending the social network from charges of aiding ‘Russian meddling’ and even revealing a few trade secrets in the process.
The marathon session involved members of the Senate Judiciary and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees. While Democrats seemed more concerned with passing new laws to regulate social media, Republicans asked pointed questions about Facebook’s “policing” of content on the platform. Zuckerberg himself opened that can of worms when he said that Facebook’s mission to connect people was not good enough anymore and that the platform needs to “make sure those connections are positive.”
While all voices are welcomed on Facebook, Zuckerberg insisted the platform will need to make sure “they’re used for good.” This will be done by tens of thousands of staff hired to review user posts and, going forward, with artificial intelligence (AI) tools.
Zuckerberg said he expects to have AI that can “get into the linguistic nuances of hate speech” within five to 10 years. Yet he could not define what he meant by “hate speech” when asked by multiple senators.
While Facebook was aware that Cambridge Analytica had improperly gained access to some information of 87 million Facebook users in 2015 through a third-party application developer, the company decided not to inform the users affected because both the developer and Cambridge Analytica assured Facebook the data had been deleted.
“In retrospect, it was a mistake to believe them,” Zuckerberg said.
Asked if there was any overlap between Cambridge Analytica and the Internet Research Agency, said to be a “Russian troll factory” allegedly responsible for election ads, Zuckerberg hedged that “it’s entirely possible there may be a connection there.”
To the claims made by former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie that the compromised data could be stored in Russia, Zuckerberg replied, “I don’t have any specific knowledge that would suggest that.”
The Facebook CEO told Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) that he still believes the personal data of millions of Americans is safer with Facebook than it is with the federal government, as they get to decide who sees every single thing they share on the platform.
“I don’t know of any surveillance agency in the world that operates like that,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook doesn’t actually sell any data to advertisers, he told multiple senators. Advertisers tell Facebook who they wish to reach and the social media giant does the placement of the ads itself, without the data ever changing hands. Third-party apps were restricted in accessing data from friends of friends in a 2014 revamp of privacy rules, Zuckerberg added.
Under questioning by Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), Zuckerberg admitted there was a hack of Facebook in 2013, when several employee computers were infected with malware.
“I do not believe” any user data has been affected, though, he said. Senators did not press him on this further.
English –translator/editor: Stepan Kocharyan