The massive trove of user data collected by Facebook, a practice that has come under intense federal scrutiny in the past year, is used to protect the integrity and safety of the platform but is not sold to outside advertisers, CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued in a new opinion piece.
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Facebook has been under siege from regulators, Congress and the public after it was uncovered that Cambridge Analytica -- a British political consulting firm hired by President Trump’s campaign in 2016 -- accessed the private information of millions of Facebook users. The platform has also faced pressure over its role in advancing misinformation campaigns backed by entities linked to the Russian government in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The controversies -- which also helped contributed to a 33 percent decline in its share price -- have driven a broader discussion surrounding the amount of personal data that Facebook and other companies gather, at-times without the explicit consent of its users or their friends.
The practice is necessary in order to keep Facebook free to its customers, according to Zuckerberg. And while the information is not sold to outside advertisers, it does help the platform with “security and operating our services,” he argued in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
“We give people complete control over whether we use this information for ads, but we don’t let them control how we use it for security or operating our services,” Zuckerberg wrote in an op-ed.
Companies, for example, often post direct advertisements on Facebook specific to items that users browse on their respective websites. While the social media network allows users to control advertisers' access to that data, the information is used for detecting “fraud or fake accounts” and Facebook does not “let them control how we use it for security,” Zuckerberg said.
“We need to be clear about the ways we’re using information, and people need to have clear choices about how their information is used,” he wrote.
Amid a slew of negative headlines and new skepticism over the data collection practices of top technology firms, bipartisan interest in Congress for a landmark, national privacy law is growing.
While such efforts have been notoriously difficult in the past given the immense amount of stakeholders involved -- ranging from top retailers, to tech firms and even car companies -- Facebook hopes any privacy measure “codifies these principles across the internet.”