Sheryl Sandberg has been on a big media tour ahead of her boss’s first-time appearance in Congress next week. She’s interviewed with digital media outlets, television networks, and radio shows, and she’s spoken many words.
But in typical Sandberg fashion, we haven’t really learned that much more about the scandal involving data firm Cambridge Analytica and what comes next for Facebook. For the last 10 years, Sandberg has helped CEO Mark Zuckerberg grow up, bringing her expertise in online sales as well as her presence as an adult in a room of tech bros. Facebook’s data privacy scandal has been her latest challenge.
We parsed through Sandberg’s many interviews to figure out what mattered. Here’s what you need to know:
How did this scandal happen?
The team at Facebook may not be completely incompetent, but they were too idealistic.
“We really believed in social experiences. We really believed in protecting privacy. But we were way too idealistic. We did not think enough about the abuse cases,” Sandberg told NPR. “We know that we did not do enough to protect people’s data. I’m really sorry for that. Mark is really sorry for that, and what we’re doing now is taking really firm action.”
“What we weren’t focused enough on was protecting because that same data that you enable to use social experiences can also be misused,” Sandberg told the NBC News’ TODAY.
Why didn’t Mark and Sheryl speak out sooner?
Shortly after the Cambridge Analytica scandal was first reported, the question on everyone’s mind was: Where is Zuckerberg? The CEO didn’t respond until five days later via a post on his personal Facebook account. Sandberg said she regrets that slowness.
“Sometimes, certainly this past week, we speak too slowly. If I could live this past week again, I would have definitely have had Mark and myself out speaking earlier, but we were trying to get to the bottom of this and make sure we could take strong action,” Sandberg told CNBC.
Are there other “Cambridge Analyticas”?
“We don’t know,” Sandberg told NPR.
“We are going to find other things,” Sandberg told Bloomberg.
Facebook is currently auditing apps that have access to the company’s data and will try to determine if any of it has been compromised.
“As we find those, we’re going to notify people,” she added.
Are advertisers leaving Facebook?
“We’ve seen a few advertisers pause with us and they’re asking the same questions that other people are asking. They want to make sure they can use data and use it safely,” Sandberg told Bloomberg.
Will Mark and Sheryl remain in charge?
Yes, and they understand the responsibility they have.
“We have a job to do every day. Mark and I come in here. Our teams come in here. We have dedicated teams around the world. We have the responsibility to build great products. We have the responsibility to treat people’s data carefully,” Sandberg told CNBC.
“I will be here as long as they think I’m the right person to run this.”
“I’m not going to sit here and say there won’t be future bad actors,” she added. “What I am going to say is we’re committed to preventing them.”
Sandberg also said in her TODAY interview, “I serve at the pleasure of Mark and our board and I will be here as long as they think I’m the right person to run this and to lead our response and to make sure that we can rebuild trust with people all over the world.”
She used similar language in an interview with BuzzFeed, “I serve at the pleasure of Mark and our board and I’m going to keep working here for as long as they think I’m the right person to help lead and help lead us, not just out of this but for the future.”
What if we just paid for Facebook instead?
Several outlets asked if Facebook’s business was broken and if they would make any radical changes to it.
Sandberg told CNBC, “This was a huge breach of trust. People come to Facebook everyday and they depend on us to protect their data, and I am so sorry that we let so many people down.”
She later defended Facebook’s approach to be a free service reliant on advertising.
“You asked about the business model. We provide a free service and that’s an ad-based business model. In order to do that, we do not sell your data. We are able to show targeted advertising that’s relevant to people. We’re able to give advertisers aggregate, anonymous reports never telling them who you are,” she told CNBC.
Sandberg made similar points on the value of not charging for Facebook on TODAY.
“We have an ad-based business model and that is something that I know people have a lot of questions about. So I’m really glad to have the chance to answer those questions. We feel very strongly that an ad-based product, which is free for people — the same way TV is, the same way radio is — is really important,” Sandberg said.
Does Facebook care about being regulated?
Zuckerberg is headed to Washington next week to discuss Facebook’s problems. Some lawmakers have been backed the Honest Ads Act to regulate political ads on Facebook. Sandberg said Facebook isn’t waiting around for any of these laws to pass.
“As Mark has said, it’s not about if regulation, it’s about what type. Right now, we’re not waiting around for regulation. The most likely legislation is around ads. We’ve gone ahead and built transparency tools ourselves, and we’re put them out,” Sandberg told CNBC.
Did Facebook help elect Trump?
“I don’t think anyone knows yet, but it is an important question, and I think it will be studied for years and years to come. We are focused on taknig the lessons of past elections and apply them going forward,” Sandberg told Bloomberg.
Should we #DeleteFacebook?
They really don’t want you to.
“If someone would wake up and say, ‘I don’t want to use Facebook anymore because I don’t trust them,’ I would say, ‘We are working hard to regain your trust,'” Sandberg told Bloomberg.