Mar 28, 2018

Facebook's new offensive

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.

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Coronavirus updates: World case count tops 600,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that the novel coronavirus pandemic could worsen if people fail to take the appropriate containment measures, at a Saturday news conference in Tokyo.

The big picture: The U.S. leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, as the number of global cases nears 620,000. Governments around the world are trying to curb the medical and financial fallout of COVID-19, as infections surge across Europe and the U.S.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 618,043 — Total deaths: 28,823 — Total recoveries: 135,736.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 104,865 — Total deaths: 1,709 — Total recoveries: 894.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump signed the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill to provide businesses and U.S. workers economic relief.
  4. State updates: A group of Midwestern swing voters that supported President Trump's handling of the coronavirus less than two weeks ago is balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter. Alaska is latest state to issue stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month.
  5. World updates: Italy reported 969 coronavirus deaths on Friday, the country's deadliest day. In Spain, over 1,300 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. Business latest: President Trump authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to direct General Motors to build ventilators for those affected by COVID-19. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has been appointed to enforce the act.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancing.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

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News about the coronavirus is so big and coming so fast that it's hard to remember what happened just last week, let alone last month.

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