More than 300,000 Australians may have had their personal information exposed in the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, Facebook has revealed, admitting up to 87 million users around the world may have been affected.
Zuckerberg told reporters that he accepted blame for the data leak, which has angered users, advertisers and lawmakers, while also saying he was still the right person to head the company he founded.
“When you’re building something like Facebook that is unprecedented in the world, there are going to be things that you mess up,” Zuckerberg said, adding that the important thing was to learn from mistakes.
He said he was not aware of any discussions on the Facebook board about him stepping down, although directors would face a challenge if they wanted to oust him because Zuckerberg is the controlling shareholder.
He said he had not fired anyone over the scandal and did not plan to. “I’m not looking to throw anyone else under the bus for mistakes that we made here,” he said.
Zuckerberg said Facebook came to the higher estimate by looking at the number of people who had downloaded a personality quiz app created by Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan, or about 270,000 people, and then adding in the number of friends they had.
Cambridge Analytica has said that it engaged Kogan “in good faith” to collect Facebook data in a manner similar to how other third-party app developers have harvested personal information.
The scandal has kicked off investigations by Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and by some 37 U.S. state attorneys general.
It has a new section explaining that it collects people’s contact information if they choose to “upload, sync or import” this to the service. This may include users’ address books on their phones, as well as their call logs and text histories.
The new policy said Facebook may use this data to help “you and others find people you may know”.
The previous policy did not mention call logs or text histories. Several users were surprised to learn recently that Facebook had been collecting information about whom they texted or called and for how long, though not the actual contents of text messages.
It seemed to have been done without explicit consent, though Facebook said it collected such data only from Android users who specifically allowed it to do so — for instance, by agreeing to permissions when installing Facebook.
Facebook also added clarification that local laws could affect what it does with “sensitive” data on people, such as information about a user’s race or ethnicity, health, political views or even trade union membership.
This and other information, the new policy states, “could be subject to special protections under the laws of your country”.
But it means the company is unlikely to apply stricter protections to countries with looser privacy laws — such as the US, for example. Facebook has always had regional differences in policies, and the new document makes that clearer.
The new policy also makes it clear that WhatsApp and Instagram are part of Facebook and that the companies share information about users. The two were not mentioned in the previous policy.