Facebook’s Zuckerberg admits mistakes, outlines fixes

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted mistakes were made. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Facebook’s Zuckerberg admits mistakes, outlines fixes


LONDON: Breaking more than four days of silence, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm.
Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page 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 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.
Earlier 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, raising questions about whether social media sites are violating users’ privacy.
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. Footage also showed Nix bragging about the firm’s pivotal role in the Trump campaign.
Nix said Cambridge Analytica handled “all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting” for the Trump campaign, and used emails with a “self-destruct timer” to make the firm’s role more difficult to trace.
“There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing,” he said.
In a statement, Cambridge Analytica’s board said Nix’s comments “do not represent the values or operations of the firm, and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”
Facebook itself is drawing criticism from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic for its alleged failure to protect users’ privacy.
Sandy Parakilas, who worked in data protection for Facebook in 2011 and 2012, told a UK parliamentary committee Wednesday that the company was vigilant about its network security but lax when it came to protecting users’ data.
He said personal data including email addresses and in some cases private messages was allowed to leave Facebook servers with no real controls on how the data was used after that.
“The real challenge here is that Facebook was allowing developers to access the data of people who hadn’t explicitly authorized that,” he said, adding that the company had “lost sight” of what developers did with the data.
On Tuesday, the chairman of the UK parliament’s media committee, Damian Collins, said his group has repeatedly asked Facebook how it uses data, but company officials “have been misleading to the committee.”
The committee summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. Facebook sidestepped questions on whether Zuckerberg would appear, saying instead that the company is currently focused on conducting its own reviews.
Meanwhile, Britain’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said she is pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s servers. She has also asked Facebook to cease its own audit of Cambridge Analytica’s data use.
Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that data protection laws require services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.
Leading Democrats in the US Senate also called on Zuckerberg to testify. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Facebook’s latest privacy scandal a “danger signal.” She wants Zuckerberg’s assurances that Facebook is prepared to take the lead on measures to protect user privacy — or Congress may step in.
Kogan’s work involved modeling human behavior through social media. In collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, he developed a Facebook-based personality survey called “This Is Your Digital Life” and paid about 200,000 people to take part. As a result, participants unknowingly gave the researchers access to the profiles of their Facebook friends, allowing them to collect data from millions more users.
Kogan said Cambridge Analytica approached him to gather Facebook data and provided the legal advice that this was “appropriate.”
“One of the great mistakes I did here was I just didn’t ask enough questions,” he said. “I had never done a commercial project; I didn’t really have any reason to doubt their sincerity. That’s certainly something I strongly regret now.”
He said the firm paid some $800,000 for the work, but it went to participants in the survey.
“My motivation was to get a dataset I could do research on; I have never profited from this in any way personally,” he said.


Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.