Facebook To Investors: There Are More Cambridge Analytica-Sized Privacy Lapses Coming

Facebook To Investors: There Are More Cambridge Analytica-Sized Privacy Lapses Coming

Facebook’s latest earnings report showed the company escaped its recent round of public scrutiny mostly unscathed, but a filing made this week with the US Securities and Exchange Commission shows that Facebook is expecting to find more massive misuses of data similar to the one that sparked the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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In the document, the company reiterated CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s promise to investigate third-party apps that had access to “large amounts of information” prior to 2014. Facebook also admitted that, over the course of those investigations, it expects to find more cases of developers sucking up user data with reckless abandon.

“We anticipate that our ongoing investments in safety, security, and content review will identify additional instances of misuse of user data or other undesirable activity by third parties on our platform,” the company stated in the filing.

Facebook said that it expects over the coming months, it will likely have to announce “additional incidents of misuse of user data or other undesirable activity” made by third-party developers.

Of course, that activity wasn’t undesirable for Facebook at the time! While the company has been quick to point out that it restricted the amount of user information apps could access starting in 2014, it had to do so because its policies prior to that allowed developers to gather a significant amount of data, including from the friends of people who install the actual app, without explicit consent.

Facebook also raised the possibility that it might not be the first to know about these past cases of data abuse, basically warning its investors not to be caught off guard if the press beats it to the punch in reporting an incident.

“We may also be notified of such incidents or activity via the media or other third parties,” Facebook stated. The company then noted that there is a whole, long list of potential negative news stories just waiting to crop up over the coming months and years:

Such incidents and activities may include the use of user data in a manner inconsistent with our terms or policies, the existence of false or undesirable user accounts, election interference, improper ad purchases, activities that threaten people’s safety on- or offline, or instances of spamming, scraping, or spreading misinformation.

All of those sound pretty bad! Even worse, that are pretty much all things that have happened on Facebook before. By mentioning those issues in the SEC filing, Facebook is to some degree acknowledging that those problems ran rampant at one point and past transgressions are going to continue to bite the company in the arse.

It’s probably not fair to ask companies to be perfect, but coming up short is more acceptable when it’s clear the business is trying to do its best. The problem for Facebook is that it decided to start caring too late.

[The Hill, SEC]