Apologetic Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told senators yesterday it had been “clearly a mistake” to believe the Trump-linked data-mining company Cambridge Analytica had discarded data that it had harvested from social media users in an attempt to sway 2016 elections.
Zuckerberg told members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees that Facebook considered the data collection “a closed case” because it thought the information had been deleted. Facebook didn’t alert the Federal Trade Commission, Zuckerberg said, and he assured senators the company would handle the situation differently today.
On another issue currently in the news, he was asked whether his company had been contacted by the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the election.
“Yes,” he said, “I know that we are working with them.” He provided no other details, saying he wanted to be careful not to break any rules of confidentiality.
Earlier this year, Mueller charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies in a plot to interfere in the presidential election through a social media propaganda effort that included online ad purchases using US aliases and politicking on US soil. Some of the Russian ads were on Facebook.
Zuckerberg began a two-day congressional inquisition with a public apology for the privacy scandal that has shaken the social media giant he founded more than a decade ago. He took responsibility for failing to prevent Cambridge Analytica, a firm affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, from gathering personal information from 87 million users to try to influence elections.
Zuckerberg had apologised many times already to users and the public, but this was the first time in his career that he had gone before Congress. He also is to testify today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.