It looks like Facebook has a while before any government will be happy to leave it to its own devices again.
Less than three days after the social platform submitted more than 700 pages of replies to questions from the U.S. Congress on its use and management of user data that revealed, among other things, that it shared data with hardware and software developers after it stopped doing so with app makers in 2015, Facebook took another grilling in the European Parliament.
Although Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operations officer, was scheduled to appear for another round of questions by EU legislators regarding its actions before and after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, including foreign interference in the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum, Richard Allan, vice president of policy solutions, was sent instead.
The hearing was billed as one to focus on “solutions and remedies” to the misuse of user data, as well as Facebook as a whole, but Allan did quite a job of seeming to answer questions without offering up much, if any, detail.
He said Facebook has undertaken “a series of measures to limit the scope of abuse,” like identifying third-party applications that are “problematic” and the “winding down” of relationships with device manufacturers. But again, as has been the case with a number of public interrogations of Facebook, Allan was in mea culpa mode. While he avoided apologizing directly (that’s been done repeatedly), he acknowledged Facebook’s errors, while positioning the platform as one that’s experiencing some growing pains.
“We were not alive to the threat of GSR,” Allan said, referring to the licensee that provided user data to Cambridge Analytica.
Now Facebook intends to have an entire cyber security team to monitor all major elections, which it did most recently in Italy, in addition to doubling the size of its 10,000-member permanent team.
Allan added that Facebook has more recently found itself “often apologizing for mistakes and there’s a frustration that we come around to apologize… we should get better at identifying problems early and responding to them.”
Tied up in this is Facebook’s affiliation with fake news, which the platform is in the process of developing a “code of practice” around. Members of the EU Parliament seemed particularly incensed with the fake news aspect — at least a few seemed to believe it had a hand in the Brexit referendum vote in 2016, which some members made clear they’re looking for a way to overturn.
But Allan didn’t have too much information to give on the prospect of outside interference being at the root of the Brexit vote. He did admit that getting fake news under control in Europe “will be a challenge — we should be honest about that,” citing the multiple languages and media landscapes to contend with.
Although all of Facebook’s problems with data, privacy and security arguably stem from its being an ad-based platform, which keeps it free, Allan didn’t indicate there is any serious movement away from this model.
“The advertising model allows us to deliver a very large and quite expensive service to people around the world,” Allan said. “I think there’s an interesting conversation going on around advertising [in the industry]… it seems the right price point for us is free.”
In a bit of semantics, Allan denied that Facebook’s business model relies on the sale of user data, although advertisers flock to and rely on the site mainly because of its ability to target ads by leveraging user data. He explained the fine line: “It’s not about selling the data — it’s about selling the advertising space that is informed by the data.”
Nevertheless, Allan admitted that users are getting much more savvy around their data, noticing what they’ve been giving away all this time must be worth something to cause such an uproar.
“People are becoming much more demanding,” Allan said. “They’re more aware of the value of their data and more aware there are multiple apps they can go to.”
For More, See: