Facebook’s primary focus at the moment is implementing an FTC-mandated privacy programme, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Fox News interview Friday. If you’re rolling your eyes right now, you’re right to have a healthy bit of scepticism: the feds have been pestering Facebook to get serious about this initiative for the better part of a decade at this point, well before the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The FTC hit Facebook with a $5 billion (£3.8 billion) fine in July (an impressive-sounding amount until you realise that’s less than a third of the company’s first-quarter earnings this year) for the incident wherein 87 million users had their personal data compromised. Facebook’s also continuing to field FTC and Justice Department investigations, albeit for antitrust concerns.
In Friday’s interview, Zuckerberg said more than 1,000 employees are planned to work an FTC-mandated “comprehensive privacy programme to protect consumers’ information.” Facebook originally agreed to this order in 2012 after an alarmingly similar – though not quite as massive – user privacy scandal. One of the company’s veteran marketing executives, Michel Protti, has already been tapped as the programme’s chief privacy officer.
“We’re doing the same internal controls and audits around people’s personal data as we do as a public company around financial data and the information that we have,” Zuckerberg told Fox News.
All told, he said the company has roughly 30,000 employees assigned to maintaining security online and a budget dedicated to this end that purportedly dwarfs Facebook’s entire yearly revenue back when it first went public in 2012.
“I understand that people have a lot of concerns about this, and in the past we’ve made mistakes and we need to make sure that we can earn people’s trust,” Zuckerberg continued. “We can do that by operating at a level of rigour and having a privacy programme that sets a whole new standard for the industry over time.”
We’ve been hearing the Zuck hock grandstanding commitments and claims a lot recently. No doubt because Facebook and its executives are quietly sweating over plummeting user trust surveys in response to, really, any one of these scandals in the last few years:
- Facebook framing a secret database of users’ contact information as an anti-terrorism effort
- That vampiric Onavo app the company peddled to monitor users’ devices
- When it paid teenagers to essentially install Facebook spyware on their phones
- Or how about when the co-founder of WhatsApp left because even he was grossed out by their purported attempts to mine user data
Though, of course, you might not guess they’re shaking in their boots given their press statements; for example, earlier this year, Zuckerberg called Facebook an “innovator in privacy” with a straight face. To which Facebook users everywhere essentially said: