Facebook has admitted that it was “rocked to its very foundations” by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook’s head of social affairs, Sir Nick Clegg, told the BBC that it was fair to say the company “hadn’t done enough” in the past.
“But I don’t think it’s fair to say that the company did nothing,” he said.
“Quite a lot of new measures have been introduced in recent years to keep data safe and to try and protect people’s privacy, but clearly not enough.”
The social network is paying a record $5bn (£4bn) fine to settle privacy concerns with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
It followed allegations that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, improperly obtained the data of up to 87 million Facebook users in 2018.
Facebook has also agreed to pay the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) $100m to settle charges of making misleading disclosures regarding its handling of user data.
There have been accusations that the FTC fine is a mere drop in the bucket for Facebook, which reported better-than-expected quarterly revenues of $16.9bn on Wednesday, up from $13.2bn for the same period in 2018.
Sir Nick said this was all part of the challenges facing Facebook in earning back the public’s trust.
“I totally accept that you could double, quadruple the fine and I expect people would still say it’s not enough,” he said.
“I don’t think people are going to take the assurances from Facebook that all will be well in the future – I don’t think words are enough.”
The former deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats said he joined Facebook because he is convinced that the culture was changing and that lawmakers need to have a serious conversation about “whether data-intensive companies like Facebook allow other companies to share and use data”.
“Facebook was rocked to its very foundations by the Cambridge Analytica allegations, and since then, well before the FTC settlement announced today, Facebook has been trying to strike a better balance.”
He said that meant allowing developers to use “better data, so that it’s not all hoarded by Facebook, but to do so in a much, much safer way, so that we avoid things like Cambridge Analytica ever happening again.
“I think Facebook has learned the hard way that if you allow access to data for developers and academics in a way that isn’t properly controlled, people’s privacy can be abused.”