Advertisers have paused spending, COO says

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl said she is having "reassuring conversations with advertisers, just as we are with people", about how Facebook has built privacy into its system.
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl said she is having "reassuring conversations with advertisers, just as we are with people", about how Facebook has built privacy into its system. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has said a few advertisers have paused spending as they wait for the company to answer questions on user privacy.

"We've seen a few advertisers pause with us and they're asking the same questions that other people are asking," Ms Sandberg said on Thursday in an interview at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

"They want to make sure they can use data and use it safely."

Ms Sandberg said she is having "reassuring conversations with advertisers, just as we are with people", about how Facebook has built privacy into its system.

The social media company makes almost all its revenue and profit from advertising.

Facebook is reviewing products and data policies to find further ways to protect users from being exploited, after political consultant Cambridge Analytica obtained information on as many as 87 million people without their permission.

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We've seen a few advertisers pause with us and they're asking the same questions that other people are asking.

MS SHERYL SANDBERG, Facebook COO.

That crisis has led to broad questions about how Facebook treats users' data. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is due to testify about the issue at congressional hearings next week.

In the wide-ranging interview, Ms Sandberg discussed the shifting responsibilities of the largest social media company as it thinks about what can go wrong with its network, following the Cambridge Analytica revelations. She said Facebook is drawing stricter boundaries around its work with certain advertisers and political campaigns too.

The company has worked directly with governments that went on to use the social network against their people, and advertisers that ran anti-Muslim content, for example.

Facebook will continue to work with political advertisers, and will still aim to be "neutral" when assessing content - just more careful, Ms Sandberg said.

"If you were using hate-based language in ads for elections, we're drawing those lines much tighter and applying them uniformly," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2018, with the headline 'Advertisers have paused spending, COO says'. Print Edition | Subscribe