In a prepared witness statement published by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce earlier this week, Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg apologized for oversights that resulted in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the proliferation of fake news during the 2016 presidential election in the country, and a number of other issues that recently placed the world's largest social media network under fire. "We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake," the 33-year-old said. That's precisely what Facebook is now trying to do, with Mr. Zuckerberg claiming the firm is seeking to own up to its own mistakes and make things right, both in terms of protecting the privacy of its users and combating other issues stemming from third-party misuses of its platform.
The multi-billionaire's full statement will be read by him on Wednesday as a prelude to the hearing organized by the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Later today, Mr. Zuckerberg will also attend another inter-committee hearing at Capitol Hill, having already arrived in Washington yesterday, with sources reporting his Monday agenda also included private meetings with U.S. lawmakers. The original controversy stems from Cambridge Analytica's 2014 efforts to harvest data of Facebook users via misleading quizzes and leverage that information for profit, according to one whistleblower account and several independent reports. Facebook estimates the political consulting firm compromised up to 87 million of its users as part of those activities, a figure that the accused actor said was overblown, having also denied utilizing the data gathered in 2014 to wage an information war on behalf of the Trump campaign in 2016.
Facebook is now in the process of restricting data access to third parties and cracking down on misleading data collectors but isn't planning on changing its core business model. If users were able to opt out of all data gathering programs, Facebook would turn into "a paid product," Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last week.