Investors, advertisers pressure Facebook over poor data protection

Suzan Ozo

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Inc Chief Executive, Mark Zuckerberg’s apology for how his company handled 50 million users’ data did little to ease investor worries about the cost to fix mistakes.

Germany’s second-largest bank Commerzbank AG has suspended advertising on Facebook until further notice, Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Thursday, following in the steps of Mozilla, which runs the Firefox web browser.

Allegations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data to build profiles on American voters and influence the 2016 presidential election has knocked more than $50 billion of Facebook’s market value this week.

 Five days after the scandal broke, Zuckerberg apologized that mistakes were made and promised to restrict developers’ access to user information as part of a plan to improve privacy protection.

Zuckerberg’s apology and promises were not enough to ease political pressure on the world’s largest social media company.

“It shouldn’t be for a company to decide what is the appropriate balance between privacy and innovation and use of data.

Those rules should be set by society as a whole and so by parliament. The big tech companies need to abide by the law and we’re strengthening the law,” British minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, told BBC Radio.

REPUTATION COSTS

Wall Street analysts expressed relief that there were no signs so far of a more fundamental shift in the company’s advertising-driven revenue model, but some said there would be costs to shore up its reputation.

Facebook, with more than 2 billion monthly active users, made almost all its $40.6 billion in revenue last year from advertising.

Facebook shares were down 2.2 percent on Thursday in heavy trading.

“We found that its current default settings leave access open to a lot of data – particularly with respect to settings for third party apps,” Mozilla, it said in a blog post.

“When Facebook takes stronger action in how it shares customer data, specifically strengthening its default privacy settings for third party apps, we’ll consider returning.”

Commerzbank said it, too, was pausing its campaign on Facebook. “Brand safety and data security are very important to us,” head of brand strategy Uwe Hellmann told Handelsblatt. The comments were confirmed by a spokesman for the bank.

Suzan O.