Facebook runs UK, US newspaper ads apologising for data scandal

Copies of The Observer with an advertisement paid by Facebook are arranged in a kiosk in London, Britain, on March 25, 2018.
Copies of The Observer with an advertisement paid by Facebook are arranged in a kiosk in London, Britain, on March 25, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in nine major British and US newspapers on Sunday (March 25) to apologise for a huge data privacy scandal.

“We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t we don’t deserve it,” he said.

The ads ran in prominent positions in six British nationals, including the best-selling Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Times and The Observer – which helped break the story – as well as the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The world's largest social media network is facing growing government scrutiny in Europe and the United States.

This follows allegations by a whistleblower that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users'information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016.

The plain black text apology on a white background, with only a tiny Facebook logo, appeared in Sunday publications including The Observer - one of the newspapers whose reporting on the issue has sent Facebook's share price tumbling.

Zuckerberg said an app built by a university researcher"leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014".

"This was a breach of trust, and I'm sorry we didn't do more at the time," Zuckerberg said, reiterating an apology first made last week in US television interviews.

Cambridge Analytica says it initially believed the data had been obtained in line with data protection laws, and later deleted it at Facebook's request.

The consultancy said it did not use the data in work it did for the 2016 US election.

On Friday night, investigators from Britain's data watchdog searched the London offices of Cambridge Analytica for several hours.

Zuckerberg, whose firm has lost more than US$50 billion (S$66 billion) in market value since the allegations, said Facebook would give users more information and control about who can access their data.

"Thank you for believing in this community. I promise to do better for you," he wrote.

Advertisers Mozilla and German bank Commerzbank have suspended ads on the service and the hashtag #DeleteFacebook has been trending online.

On Friday, electric carmaker Tesla Inc and its rocket company SpaceX's Facebook pages - each with more than 2.6 million followers - were deleted after Chief Executive Elon Musk promised to do so.