So why wasn’t anybody fired after the Cambridge Analytica data leak?
That was the first question on Recode co-founder Kara Swisher’s mind as she kicked off her discussion with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer at the Code Conference in California on Tuesday night. Sandberg said no one was fired because the blame ultimately falls on chief exec Mark Zuckerebrg, as well as herself — while also pushing back at the notion that Facebook doesn’t hold its employees accountable.
“Mark [Zuckerberg] has said very clearly on Cambridge Anlaytica that he designed the platform and he designed policies and he holds himself responsible,” Sandberg said. “We do fire people at Facebook — we don’t trot them out and make examples of them. It’s not how we are.”
Sandberg also apologized for the social network’s slow response to a number of issues, including its fight against misinformation.
“We said we’re sorry, but sorry isn’t the point,” she said. “The point is the action we’re taking. On all of these fronts, we’re thinking about responsibility in a very different ways.”
Her statement was the latest in a long line of mea culpas from Facebook execs following the Cambridge Analytica scandal — where up to 87 million users unknowingly had their information compromised by the political firm. Since the 2014 data leak was revealed in March, Facebook has made several changes to its platform, including adding a feature for users to download their profile and see which advertisers had interacted with it.
Still, Sandberg said Facebook isn’t exactly sure what data Cambridge Analytica got away with. “To this day, we still don’t actually know what data Cambridge Analytica had,” she said. Cambridge Analytica, which was ultimately enlisted by President Trump’s campaign in 2016, had “legally certified” to Facebook it had deleted all of its collected data — a claim which is now in question.
Facebook’s reckoning has resulted in its “biggest cultural shift” in the last decade, according to Schroepfer.
“I learned we needed to invest more to see the threats,” added Sandberg. “We sit here knowing what today’s problems are, feeling more responsibility and knowing we need to protect people.”