Over the past several days, it's been revealed by The New York Times and The Guardian that Cambridge Analytica collected data from roughly 50 million Facebook users without their consent in 2015. Cambridge Analytica worked on Facebook ads for Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential campaign and is accused of influencing the election.
Facebook is facing a huge leadership test. So far, it's missing in action.
Facebook disclosed late last week that it knew Cambridge Analytica had obtained user information without its consent. But it didn't validate that Cambridge Analytica had deleted the data nor did it notify its users. Now, regulators, lawmakers, and privacy experts are calling for tighter regulations and investigations into what actually occurred.
These revelations have led to public outcry over Facebook's data policies. Investor confidence has eroded, with Facebook losing more than $6 billion in stock value on Monday, March 19 and more than $50 billion off its market cap since March 16.
As the details of the data breach have emerged, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has remained silent. This is peculiar in an era where customers and shareholders expect CEOs to be transparent and proactive when customer issues and other crises arise.
Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg were both conspicuously absent from a Q&A session with employees on March 20 that was aimed at helping to explain the situation internally. A Facebook spokesperson later issued the following comment:
"Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of the issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens."
But as CNBC points out, Facebook has been "deflecting stories" about how its platform was used during the 2016 presidential election for over a year now. On March 19, The New York Times revealed that Facebook Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos plans to leave the company after advocating greater disclosure about Russian interference of the platform but was apparently met with resistance by colleagues, according to current and former employees.
It's critical for company leaders to be transparent with employees and customers in order to foster a culture of trust. Company leaders who are honest and open help to strengthen relationships between members of the team, which ultimately leads to a healthier work environment. So far, at least, we're not seeing this at Facebook.