Cambridge Analytica’s improper access to Facebook user data turned into a firestorm for the social media giant this past week. Four days later, CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally responded, publishing a Facebook post in which he made a familiar vow to do “what it takes to protect our community.” He also conceded that Facebook has “made mistakes” and needs to “step up.”
But the post was as noteworthy for what it did not contain. Zuckerberg did not, for example, mention the role that Cambridge Analytica’s work may have played in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He did not acknowledge that Facebook has had ample time (four years, in fact) to audit and shut down apps violating its terms of service. And he did not show emotion or validate user anger, instead striking the tone of an objective investigator.
Most importantly of all, Zuckerberg did not address the central role that user data plays in Facebook’s business model. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he wrote, carefully skimming the surface of the complicated questions that the Cambridge crisis has raised. Indeed, Facebook does have a responsibility around user data—and a business imperative. Lose users’ data, and you lose their trust, setting off a downward spiral that could jeopardize Facebook’s money-making machine.
Rather than engaging these issues, Zuckerberg spent the bulk of the post outlining three practical steps that Facebook plans to take to investigate and prevent abuse of the company’s trove of personal information. First, it will investigate apps with “suspicious activity” that have, in the past, had access to users’ friend data in the same way that Cambridge Analytica once did. Second, the company will automatically remove app developers’ access to a user’s data if the user has not opened the app for three months. And third, the company will better surface a tool that allows users to control app permissions, which now sits deep within the privacy settings menu.
Perhaps Zuckerberg is saving his chance to speak from the heart for later tonight. At 9 p.m. ET, an interview that he conducted with CNN will air during Anderson Cooper 360.