Can Zuckerberg’s media blitz take the pressure off Facebook?

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on stage during the annual Facebook F8 developers conference in San Jose, California. (Reuters)
Updated 23 March 2018
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Can Zuckerberg’s media blitz take the pressure off Facebook?

NEW YORK: In the wake of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg embarked on a rare media mini-blitz in an attempt to take some of the public and political pressure off the social network.
But it is far from clear whether he has won over US and European authorities, much less the broader public whose status updates provide Facebook with an endless stream of data it uses to sell targeted ads.
On Wednesday, the generally reclusive Zuckerberg sat for an interview on CNN and gave another to the publication Wired, addressing reports that Cambridge Analytica purloined the data of more than
50 million Facebook users in order to sway elections. The Trump campaign paid the firm $6 mlllion during the 2016 election, although it has since distanced itself from Cambridge.
Zuckerberg apologized for a “major breach of trust,” admitted mistakes and outlined steps to
protect users following Cambridge’s data grab.
“I am really sorry that happened,” Zuckerberg said on CNN. Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data, he added, noting that if it fails, “we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.”
His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged his company’s mistakes in a Facebook post, but without saying he was sorry.
Zuckerberg and Facebook’s
No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, had been quiet since news broke on Friday that Cambridge may have used data improperly obtained from about 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections. Cambridge’s clients included Donald Trump’s general election campaign.
Facebook shares have dropped about 8 percent, lopping about
$46 billion off the company’s
market value, since the revelations were first published.
While several experts said Zuckerberg took an important step with the CNN interview, few were convinced that he put the Cambridge issue behind hm.
Zuckerberg’s apology, for instance, seemed rushed and pro forma to Helio Fred Garcia, a crisis-management professor at NYU and Columbia University.
“He didn’t acknowledge the harm or potential harm to the affected users,” Garcia said. “I doubt most people realized he was apologizing.”
Instead, the Facebook chief pointed to steps the company has already taken, such as a 2014 move to restrict the access outside apps had to user data. (That move came too late to stop Cambridge.) And he laid out a series of technical changes that will further limit the data such apps can collect, pledged to notify users when outsiders misuse their information and said Facebook will “audit” apps that exhibit troubling behavior.
That audit will be a giant undertaking, said David Carroll, a media researcher at the Parsons School of Design in New York — one that he said will likely turn up a vast number of apps that did “troubling, distressing things.”
But on other fronts, Zuckerberg hedged otherwise striking remarks.
In the CNN interview, for instance, he said he would be “happy” to testify before Congress — but only if it was “the right thing to do.” Zuckerberg went on to note that many other Facebook officials might be more appropriate witnesses depending on what Congress wanted to know.
At another point, the Facebook chief seemed to favor regulation for Facebook and other Internet giants. At least, that is, the “right” kind of rules, such as ones requiring online political ads to disclose who paid for them. In almost the next breath, however, Zuckerberg steered clear of endorsing a bill that would write such rules into federal law, and instead talked up Facebook’s own voluntary efforts on that front.
“They’ll fight tooth and nail to fight being regulated,” said Timothy Carone, a Notre Dame business professor. “In six months we will be having the same conversations, and it’s just going to get worse going into the election.”
Even Facebook’s plan to let users know about data leaks may put the onus on users to educate themselves. Zuckerberg said Facebook will “build a tool” that lets users see if their information had been impacted by the Cambridge leak, suggesting that the company won’t be notifying people automatically.
Facebook took this kind of do-it-yourself approach in the case of Russian election meddling, in contrast to Twitter, which notified users who had been exposed to Russian propaganda on its network.
In what has become one of the worst backlashes Facebook has ever seen, politicians in the US and Britain have called for Zuckerberg to explain its data practices in detail. State attorneys general in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have opened investigations into the Cambridge mess. And some have rallied to a movement that urges people to delete their Facebook accounts entirely.
Sandy Parakilas, who worked in data protection for Facebook in 2011 and 2012, told a UK parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the company was vigilant about network security but lax when it came to protecting users’ data. 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.
Paul Argenti, a business professor at Dartmouth, said that while Zuckerberg’s comments hit the right notes, they still probably aren’t enough. “The question is, can you really trust Facebook,” he said. “I don’t think that question has been answered.”


Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

Updated 14 min 28 sec ago
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Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

  • The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios
  • SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year

RIYADH: Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. (SRC), modelled on US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, aims to issue up to 4 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) of long-term sukuk this year, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios from mortgage financing companies and banks to boost the Kingdom’s secondary mortgage market.

SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview.

“Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said. “We are really looking at probably issuing something between ... 2 and 4 billion riyal that we may be issuing in two tranches.

He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10 to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said.

He said the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the local riyal.

In March, SRC completed a 750 million riyal sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to 11 billion riyals of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.

“The rule of the game for us is, like many projects across the Kingdom, attract liquidity from foreign investors,” Susini said.

He said SRC had spent 1.2 billion riyals from its balance sheet buying mortgages from local mortgage financing companies and provided liquidity to these firms.

It has also signed initial accords with several commercial banks to acquire housing mortgage portfolios.

Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry is targeting the mortgage market to reach a total value of 502 billion riyals by 2020 from around 300 billion riyals now.

The government wants to increase activity in the real estate market as it moves to revitalize the economy and is taking steps to reform the sector as part of its 2030 reform plan.

It has been working with developers and local banks to counter a shortage of affordable housing — one of the country’s biggest social and economic problems. Saudi Arabia wants 60 percent of its nationals to own homes by 2020, up from 47 percent in 2016.

The size of real estate financing relative to its gross domestic product is 5 percent in Saudi Arabia compared to 69 percent in the United States, 74 percent in the United Kingdom and 43 pct in Canada, the housing ministry has said.

“The goal of SRC in this market was to make sure that we will be able to refinance at least around 10 percent of the market in 2020, and 20 percent of the market by 2028,” Susini told Reuters.