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Consumer group calls for Zuckerberg to step down after data misuse

A social media firm's value is in the size of the network of users it can offer advertisers. But this model is now under the spotlight

International consumer group SumOfUs, which has 14 million members, has called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to step down following revelations of what it describes as unacceptable data collection policy.

A week ago, news came out that Facebook had suspended Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), and its political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, for violating the company’s policies on data collection and retention.

A number of CEOs in Silicon Valley have spoken out about Facebook’s policy. Now, Lisa Lindsley, capital markets advisor for SumOfUs, issued the following statement, calling on Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to step down as CEO and board chair:

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should step down,” she said. “For too long, Mark Zuckerberg has kept users in the dark about how it censors speech, allowed companies like SCL and Cambridge Analytica to take advantage of users on its platform, and collected private user call and text data. This is unacceptable.”

She said SumOfUs worked with Facebook shareholders in 2017 to lobby for the social media giant to create an independent board chair. Lindsley said SumOfUs warned Facebook shareholders the current structure, where Zuckerberg serves as his own boss, was a recipe for disaster.

“Multiple scandals later, it’s clear that enough is enough. Zuckerberg has proven himself unable or unwilling to protect Facebook’s user data or privacy, which is why we firmly believe shareholders should take action to remove him as CEO and board chair.

“It’s time for new leadership at Facebook: one that protects users from unethical data collection, state-sponsored censorship and privacy violations.”

Read more about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Both SCL and Cambridge Analytica ran data operations for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, and are widely credited with helping Trump more effectively target voters on Facebook, though the exact nature of their role is unknown. Over the weekend, Facebook admitted it had been collecting call and text history from some users for years, SumOfUs said.

Over $100bn has been wiped off of Facebook’s value since news of the scandal broke. It is now under investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission that could result in a penalty of up to $2tn.

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, Privacy International has said the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data exploitation scandal is a wake-up call for UK policy-makers.

On 20th March, Damian Collins MP, chair of the UK parliamentary select committee for culture, media and sports looking into fake news, wrote to Zuckerberg requesting evidence. It has now been reported that Zuckerberg has not responded to this request

The power of sites like Facebook is something that World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee is worried about. Prior to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he wrote: “The fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale.”

Berners-Lee argued that advertising is not the only possible business model for online companies, and people should work at developing new business models.

Read more on Data breach incident management and recovery

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