Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg apologized Thursday for the social media giant’s data breach and admitted the company failed to do enough to protect the data of tens of millions of its users.
Yet she said the company does not know whether political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which used Facebook data to target voters in the run-up to the 2016 elections, still possesses user data from the company, and if so, what the data is.
“We were given assurances by them years ago that they deleted the data. We should’ve followed up. That’s on us. We are trying to do a forensic audit to find out what they have,” Sandberg said.
Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook data, which may have affected up to 87 million users, according to a blog post from the company this week, has sparked widespread anger at the company and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who will testify before Congress about how his company protects user data next week.
In an interview with the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Sandberg acknowledged the company “under-invested” in the safety and security of user data. Sandberg said Facebook is now working to rectify that.
“We were very focused for the last 10 years on building on social experiences [but] we were not focused enough on the possible misuses of data,” Sandberg said. “What we are doing now is looking much more holistically at all the ways Facebook data is used and making a lot of proactive changes.”
Other highlights from the interview:
- On reports that Russian agents used Facebook to spread false information during the 2016 elections: “Certainly we’ve done a lot of soul-searching on the role
we played with the foreign interference that we did not see or catch early enough on our election,” Sandberg said. “I think people are going to be trying to answer that question for a long time.”
- Facebook is open to the idea of additional government regulation, Sandberg said. But she stopped short of saying how far the company would go in supporting new regulations. “We’ve given a lot of thought to that. We do operate under a lot of regulation around the world,” Sandberg said.
- Sandberg defended her company’s business model, pushing back on criticism that Facebook puts advertisers ahead of user privacy. “We believe very deeply in our advertising model,” she said. “Can we run an ads business where we serve targeted ads in the way that protects people privacy? And the answer to that is yes.”