LONDON: Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg broke four days of silence on Wednesday and admitted that mistakes were made in safeguarding user data. His statement came amid a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm.

Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data.

“If we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg and Facebook’s No 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, have been quiet since news broke on Friday that Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections.

Zuckerberg said the company has already taken the most important steps to prevent such a situation from happening again in previous years. For example, it reduced the access outside apps had to user data back in 2014, though some of the measures didn’t take effect until a year later, allowing Cambridge to access the data in the intervening months.

Read: How Facebook data helped Trump find his voters

Earlier on Wednesday, an academic who developed the app used by Cambridge Analytica to harvest data said that he had no idea his work would be used in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and that he’s being scapegoated in the fallout from the affair.

Alexandr Kogan, a psychology researcher at Cambridge University, told the BBC that both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have tried to place the blame on him for violating the social media platform’s terms of service, even though Cambridge Analytica ensured him that everything he did was legal.

“My view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,” he said. “Honestly, we thought we were acting perfectly appropriately, we thought we were doing something that was really normal.”

Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating the alleged improper use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political research firm. Facebook shares have dropped some 9 percent, lopping more than $50 billion off the company’s market value, since the revelations were first published.

The head of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, was suspended Tuesday after Britain’s Channel 4 News broadcast hidden camera footage of him suggesting the company could use young women to catch opposition politicians in compromising positions.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018

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