Some time, about 10 days ago, Facebook was notified that there were major stories planned in The Guardian, The New York Times, and on British television about Cambridge Analytica. These stories would allege that the company built its initial models of American voters with data ferried out of Facebook by an app built by a Cambridge psychology researcher. And that when informed that this data existed, the company’s response was, at best, pro forma.
The stories came out last Friday and Facebook’s shares have been in free fall since the markets opened this week. There are massive open questions about this data and the effectiveness of the techniques that Cambridge Analytica has claimed to use. Of course, Russian connections are being floated.
But the most consequential questions are about Facebook. Without mincing words, the Financial Times laid them out in an editorial: “Why did Facebook take so little action when the data leak was discovered? ... Who is accountable for the leak? ... Why does Facebook accept political advertisements at all? ... Should not everyone who cares about civil society simply quit Facebook?”
This is the Financial Times asking these questions!
As the variations on these questions have clanged around the world, the response from Facebook has been ... almost nonexistent. Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth has been rolled out on Twitter and on his Facebook page to answer some questions. Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos took to Twitter to offer his thoughts, then deleted the tweets, and yesterday, The New York Times reported he’s being steered out of the company, following disputes over how to publicly respond to disinformation efforts on the platform.