SAN FRANCISCO Facing growing criticism of his leadership, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence on the escalating crisis over how the social media giant handles people's private information.
Zuckerberg took responsibility for what he called "a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it."
"We need to fix that," he said.
The Facebook co-founder outlined a three-point plan: investigate all third-party apps with access to large amounts of information, further restrict third-party access to prevent future abuses and make sure users understand which apps they've given access to their information.
"I'm serious about doing what it takes to protect our community," he said in a Facebook post.
He stopped short of apologizing and didn't answer some of the questions raised in the four days since the news broke that Cambridge Analytica pilfered sensitive information from tens of millions of Facebook users. He didn't answer why Facebook didn't reveal the breach when it first learned about it in 2015.
The reaction on Facebook was mixed.
"As a long-time user of your platform I'm simply concerned that this is too little, too late," one user wrote in the comments on Zuckerberg's post. "The data collected from your users never should have happened in the first place. Your company and industry clearly cannot police itself," wrote another.
"Facebook faces the greatest danger confronting the firm, and Zuckerberg's response is one of the single-worst responses in the history of modern-day crisis management," said Eric Schiffer, CEO and Chairman of Reputation Management Consultants. "He gave no apology and showed no empathy after allowing users data to be pillaged. The threat to Facebook was not helped today by its leader."
The remarks were aimed at restoring public trust in the social media giant. That trust may be hard to win back. Silence by Facebook's two top executives Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg fanned the flames of the controversy for days as U.S. and European lawmakers demanded answers and Facebook shares tumbled.
Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, welcomed Zuckerberg breaking his silence.
"With shares down 10% plus since the Cambridge data leak news came to light, we are glad to hear Zuckerberg finally address this issue," Ives said in a research note. "We believe Zuckerberg took a 'big step forward' today."
Zuckerberg's remarks were his first since bombshell reports from The New York Times and The Guardian/The Observer alleged British data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained and retained the personal information of 50 million Facebook users without their permission 30 million of them with enough details to match users to other records and build profiles of them. Cambridge Analytica has ties to President Trump's 2016 campaign.
"Facebook is exhibiting signs of systemic mismanagement, which is a new concern we had not contemplated until recently," Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser wrote in a research note before the remarks Wednesday. "Investors now have to consider whether or not the company will conclude that it has grown in a manner that has proven to be untenable or whether it needs to significantly improve how it is managed."
Facebook disclosed late Friday that it knew Cambridge Analytica had taken users' information without their consent by obtaining it from a psychology researcher who legitimately gleaned details on users' likes and habits via a personality quiz app in 2013.
The growing scandal has given Facebook users an inside look into what happens to their data in the hands of outside parties and what, if anything, Facebook does about it.
Facebook admits it knew Cambridge Analytica had obtained user information without its consent, but it didn't verify that the firm had deleted it and it didn't notify users. Zuckerberg repeated the company's earlier comments that it had obtained certifications that the firm had destroyed the data. But it engaged forensic auditors to make sure that was the case after The New York Times report.
"I deeply regret that we didn't do enough to deal with it. We have a responsibility to protect your data and if we can't, then we don't deserve to serve you," Sandberg wrote in a separate Facebook post.
U.S. lawmakers have called on Zuckerberg to testify before Congress. Facebook met with lawmakers Tuesday and planned to meet again Wednesday to discuss the case.
The Federal Trade Commission is probing Facebook over the matter, and the social network faces investigations from attorneys general in both New York and Massachusetts.
"While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn't change what happened in the past," Zuckerberg wrote. "We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward."
Cambridge Analytica, which had said all data obtained through Facebook was done "legally and fairly," revealed Tuesday it suspended CEO Alexander Nix pending a full investigation.
Facebook (FB) shares were up 0.6% Wednesday to $169.17. Shares have fallen more than 10% this week, including a 7% drop Monday, the stock's worst fall in four years, according to FactSet.
Facebook CEO Zuckerberg lost $6.7 billion as the stock skid for two days, putting his net worth at $68.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.