Mar 28, 2018 - Technology

Facebook's new offensive

A man reads Facebook's full-page ad from this weekend

Facebook took out ads this weekend to address its privacy scandal. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook has launched a multi-pronged offensive as it deals with the exploding data privacy scandal: tweaking privacy settings, agreeing to testify and delaying a product launch.

Why it matters: The Cambridge Analytica controversy has turned into a reckoning over Facebook's data practices. After a brutal 10 days since the scandal broke, Facebook is working to quickly stop the bleeding as its reputation takes a massive hit.

What they're doing:

  • Slowing down a key product release. Bloomberg's Sarah Frier reported that the company won't preview a new Alexa-like home speaker at its May developer's conference as it more closely examines its privacy implications. As Axios' Ina Fried pointed out, that's probably a wise move in the current environment.
  • Rolling out new language around data collection. Facebook announced changes Wednesday morning to the way it presents privacy settings — making them easier to find and letting users see the data being collected on them.
  • Getting ready for Mark Zuckerberg to face Congress. Facebook has been talking to congressional committee staffers about setting up Zuckerberg's testimony, and he's getting closer to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And the notoriously politics-shy chief executive understands he is likely to be grilled by lawmakers, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
  • A belated publicity offensive. Facebook bought full-page ads in major newspapers this weekend assuring readers that it respects user data. Top executives made the same argument during interviews about the Cambridge Analytica scandal last week. But these moves came after the company's leadership was silent for days after the story broke.
  • Pushing back on new reports. The company aggressively responded to raft of stories about how some of its products collected calling and SMS data on Android phones.

Facebook has been on guard since the Russian election manipulation story blew up last year. It has hired new lobbyists and consultants — and is looking to grow more to deal with the issue.

What's next: Zuckerberg's testimony in mid-April and outcomes of regulatory probes into the company's data practices.

Go deeper