Mark Zuckerberg: 'It Was My Mistake' Facebook Compromised Data of 87 Million Users

Facebook is making it harder for third-party apps to obtain certain user data, the company has announced.
April 4, 2018, 9:44pm
Image: Flickr/Anthony Quintano

Apps will no longer have carte blanche to Facebook user data, the company’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer wrote in a blog post today.

The announcement is Facebook’s latest promise to take its users’ security more seriously. Just weeks ago, it was revealed that secretive data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica harvested millions of Facebook users’ information. The number of people affected has since ratcheted up to 87 million users—the “maximum amount of people” that Facebook was able to calculate, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a press call today.

“We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse, and thinking about how people can use these tools to do harm,” Zuckerberg added. “We didnt take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is. It was my mistake.”

Third-party apps will be restricted from accessing certain information about Facebook Events, and closed and secret Facebook groups. Facebook’s API will no longer permit apps from collecting event guest lists, or see posts on an event’s wall.

“Currently apps need the permission of a group admin or member to access group content for closed groups, and the permission of an admin for secret groups,” Schroepfer wrote. But, starting now, apps must obtain permission from admin and Facebook to do so, though Facebook did not specify at all how it plans to deliberate which apps are granted permission.

“Starting today, Facebook will need to approve all apps that request access to information such as check-ins, likes, photos, posts, videos, events and groups,” Schroepfer added. Sensitive information, such as a person’s religion or political views will be off-limits from apps.

Beginning today, Facebook will also be canceling the feature that allowed users to find people with their phone number or email address. “We build this feature and it’s very useful—to look up the people who they want to add as friends,” Zuckerberg said. Facebook believes the search tool has been used by “malicious actors” to scrape people’s profiles through search and account recovery.

Facebook announced other updates, too. Like deleting call and text history older than a year for Messenger and Facebook Lite for Android. The company also set a launch date for its privacy setting tool that lets people manage their third-party apps. This is already visible under Facebook’s privacy tab, but on Monday it will be moved to the top of News Feed.

“What people should hold us accountable for is learning from the mistakes,” Zuckerberg said. “At the end of the day, whether we’re building things that people like, and are making their lives better.”

Still, while Zuckerberg claimed that major transparency efforts are on the company’s horizon, he seemed dismissive of users’ concerns about their privacy. The recent movement to #DeleteFacebook, he said, had “no meaningful impact” on the company or Facebook usage.

“Facebook knows so much about you,” he added, “because you chose to share it with your friends and put it on your profile.”