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Zuckerberg's Former Mentor Weighs In On Cambridge Analytica Statement


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has finally broken his silence. He issued a statement, which he posted to his own Facebook page, addressing the controversy over how an outside firm harvested the profiles of 50 million Facebook users. Zuckerberg says the company made mistakes, that it will audit thousands of apps and it will put in more safeguards to protect user data. Roger McNamee is managing director at the private equity firm Elevation Partners. He was an early investor in Facebook. He's still a current investor. And he has been a mentor to Mark Zuckerberg. Welcome.

ROGER MCNAMEE: It's a great pleasure, Ailsa.

CHANG: What do you make of Zuckerberg's statement today?

MCNAMEE: I think if he had made the statement in 2015, it would have been completely appropriate. 2015 is when they fully understood what had happened with Cambridge Analytica. And instead, they remained absolutely silent for more than two years knowing that this abuse had occurred. But it's actually worse than that, Ailsa, because in 2016, Facebook had employees embedded in the Trump campaign working side by side with Cambridge Analytica employees. And their job was to get Trump elected. And they did a lot of things together using this exact data set that was taken inappropriately from Facebook in order to get Trump elected.

And the important thing is the senior executives at Facebook should have known all the details of that at the time because it was well-known that Cambridge Analytica was working for Trump. And so if Mark wants us to trust him, he's going to have to start with actions.

CHANG: And about those actions that you think Zuckerberg should move forward with - when you read his statement, did you think that it outlined enough action?

MCNAMEE: No. I think the problem here is it doesn't outline a reasonable plan at all. Again, there are a series of things he has to do simply to demonstrate good faith. He does need to turn over all of the data relative to 2016 with respect to the Russian interference. And he needs to give that to the investigating committees and of course to Robert Mueller. He also needs to reach out to every one of the 126 million Facebook users and 20-plus million Instagram users who were touched by the Russian interference. Explain what happened. Take the blame for essentially being a platform the Russians used to interfere in our election.

CHANG: What would make you pull your money out of Facebook now? You're still an investor.

MCNAMEE: I am, but I have been selling the stock because I really feel that they're destroying value, and they've harmed democracy. I think their strategy of fighting this issue makes absolutely no sense. There's no happy ending to the plan that they're on. I mean, let's be clear. In 2011, the company signed a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission that required them to gain positive approval from users for any sharing of their information. You know, they needed to have what is known as informed consent, and Facebook should have hired a whole team to take care of that. And they chose not to do that.

But I still feel terrible about it because, at the end of the day, these were my friends. I helped them be successful. I wanted them to be successful. And I was obviously really pleased with all the success they had. What I didn't know was that they were behaving in a manner that is just totally inappropriate. And had I had a chance to do it over again, I would have behaved differently.

CHANG: Roger McNamee is managing director at the private equity firm Elevation Partners. He was an early investor in Facebook. Thank you very much for joining us.

MCNAMEE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.