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Facebook’s ads, taken out in British and American newspapers on Sunday, are full page attempts to apologise for the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal that has lately kept the social media world in a frenzy. The ad takes the form of a written apology by CEO Mark Zuckerberg as he tries to clarify the situation by restating that Facebook has already stopped third-party apps from getting so much information, also starting to limit the data that apps get when signing up. That statement was made in an announcement the company made earlier this past week. Facebook is now in seriously hot water with the FTC announcing its opening of a non-public investigation into these practices.

Mark Zuckerberg 2011
© Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com

All of this is according to The Verge, but the story is all over the Internet.  “This was a breach of trust and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” writes Zuckerberg. “I promise to do better for you.” This apology is hot on the coattails of the chief executive’s flurry of interviews with American media organisations like CNN, Wired, The New York Times and Recode. CNN stated that the ads appeared in the Sunday editions of the UK newspapers The Observer, The Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Mirror, Sunday Express and Sunday Telegraph. In the US, the ads appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Apology A Long Time Coming

Cambridge Analytica was revealed a little over a week ago, and it is by far the largest Facebook data breach in the social network’s history. Zuckerberg’s initial Facebook post addressing the situation last Wednesday did not say he or the company were sorry. Not until he was televised on CNN did he verbalise an apology.

Zuckerberg Apology
© Brian Stelter

What Is Cambridge Analytica?

Basically, the London-based data mining and analytics company gained access to data on as many as 50 million Facebook profiles thanks to Facebook’s generous data-sharing policies that developers enjoyed back in 2014. This data was sold to Cambridge Analytica against Facebook’s terms of service, reportedly informing the firm’s election ad targeting toolset used by the campaign of President Donald Trump and others.

The Damage 

Facebook has been slapped with numerous lawsuits, governmental inquiries, a #DeleteFacebook user boycott campaign as well as a sharp drop in share price that’s erased almost $50 billion of the company’s market cap. What’s next?

The Bigger They Are

The FTC is investigating Facebook is next. According to CNBC, a violation of the FTC's consent decree could carry a penalty of $40,000 per violation. With the improperly gained access to data by Cambridge Analytica of more than 50 million users, Facebook could be put out of business if one looks at the math. Here is the full statement from the FTC, which says it best:

"The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act. Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements. Accordingly, the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices."