By Associated Press - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) - The Latest on the alleged use of Facebook data to influence the U.S. presidential election (all times local):

10:20 p.m.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he believes it’s time to impose more regulations on technology companies as they play an increasingly important role in the world. But he isn’t spelling what kind of rules he would support beyond requiring clear disclosure about who is paying for online ads.

Zuckerberg told CNN in an interview late Wednesday that it no longer is a question whether Facebook and other large tech companies should be more closely regulated. Instead, he says lawmakers need to work with companies to figure out what regulations make the most sense.

The pressure to impose more controls on influential tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon has been building as their services and products become more dominant, making it more difficult for rivals to build alternatives.

Zuckerberg only said he thinks it’s a good idea to require internet companies to disclose who is paying for online ads. That’s a proposal under review in Congress after Facebook acknowledged Russian agents financed political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign, information about which wasn’t disclosed until after the election.


9:55 p.m.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he is willing to testify before Congress to answer questions about the privacy scandal engulfing his company.

But he suggested other executives might be better qualified to field questions from lawmakers.

Zuckerberg told CNN late Wednesday that he will bow to demands for him to appear before Congress if it’s “the right thing to do.” He added, however, that Facebook has other executives whose jobs are focused on certain areas that put them in a better position to give lawmakers the information they are seeking.

That rationale is why Zuckerberg has sent other executives to appear in Congress to respond to hot-button issues, including whether Russian agents were able to manipulate Facebook’s social network to sway the U.S. presidential election won by Donald Trump in 2016.

Eventually, though, Zuckerberg said there may be situations where he is the “sole authority.” He didn’t say whether he had concluded if he is best suited to address the Facebook breakdown that led to Cambridge Analytica gaining access to personal information about 50 million Facebook users without their consent.


9:30 p.m.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has finally apologized for weaknesses in the social network’s policies that enabled an app to gain access to the personal information of 50 million users without their consent.

Zuckerberg told CNN late Wednesday that he is “really sorry,” speaking in his first interview since news of the scandal broke last week.

His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged on his Facebook page that his company had made mistakes, but without saying he was sorry.

During the CNN interview, Zuckerberg also expressed regrets for not doing more after Facebook first discovered that Cambridge Analytica had gained access to a broad swath of Facebook users’ data in 2015.

Until his post and the CNN interview, Zuckerberg had remained silent about the privacy scandal, as had Facebook’s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg.


3:50 p.m.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is admitting mistakes and outlining steps to protect user data in light of privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm.

Zuckerberg is breaking more than four days of silence as he posts an update about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page Wednesday that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data, and “if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”

Zuckerberg and Facebook’s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, have been quiet since news broke Friday that Cambridge may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections.


3 p.m.

Kenya’s opposition says lawyers are poring through a British broadcaster’s investigation to see whether legal action is possible against data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica over its role in the country’s disputed presidential election last year.

Cambridge Analytica already is being investigated by British and U.S. authorities over allegations the firm stole data from 50 million Facebook users and used it to manipulate elections.

National Super Alliance Chief Executive Norman Magaya says a legal team will look into whether Cambridge Analytica was involved in what Kenya’s opposition claims is a hack of the electoral commission and manipulation of results in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In the Channel 4 report this week based on undercover video, Cambridge Analytica took credit for stage-managing Kenyatta’s campaign. It denied any involvement in inflammatory videos targeting Kenyatta’s opponents. There was no discussion of mining Facebook data.


1:05 p.m.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to speak sometime in the next day with a “focus on rebuilding trust.”

That’s according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The person gave no further details on timing or where Zuckerberg will speak. But the person said the CEO’s plan was “always to speak publicly” about Facebook’s latest privacy scandal, which involves Trump campaign consultants who allegedly stole data on tens of millions of Facebook users in order to influence elections.

Criticism has been brewing as Zuckerberg and his No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, have been mum since the Cambridge Analytica story broke last Friday. Twitter users have been asking, using the “WhereIsZuck” hashtag.

__ Barbara Ortutay, New York


(previously from LONDON)

4:35 p.m.

The chairman of Romania’s ruling party says his Social Democratic Party did not hire Cambridge Analytica for its successful 2016 electoral campaign. And Cambridge Analytica itself reportedly said it did not work on the campaign, despite being interested.

Liviu Dragnea told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he “categorically” did not hire Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL Group, a British strategic communications company.

His comment came after a British consultant, Rupert Wolfe Murray, who was based in Romania at the time, said he was contacted by Mark Turnbull, a senior official at Cambridge Analytica, in August 2016.

He said Turnbull had “offered to embed a two-person team” into the Social Democrats’ campaign team. Wolfe Murray said he declined the offer because he does not work for political parties.

He says Turnbull later told him Cambridge Analytica did not work on the 2016 Romanian election.

The Social Democrats won about 46 percent of the vote and the Liberals came second with 20 percent.

Separately, investigative platform RISE project reported SCL Group set up an office in Romania in 2011, though it is not clear who they worked for.


3:15 p.m.

The co-founder of WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook four years ago for $19 billion, has joined the movement to delete Facebook.

Brian Acton tweeted: “It’s time. #deletefacebook.”

That hashtag has been trending since reports surfaced in recent days regarding the improper use of personal information on Facebook by Cambridge Analytica, a political research firm used by the Trump campaign before the election.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has remained silent as nearly $50 billion in market capitalization of his company has been wiped out with investors fearing new oversight by government regulators.


1:10 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says allegations that Facebook users’ data was improperly used by political campaigns are “very concerning.”

May says she expects Facebook and data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to “comply fully” with British authorities investigating how personal information was obtained and used.

May told lawmakers in the House of Commons that “people need to have confidence in how their personal data is used.”

Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating the alleged improper use of data harvested from tens of millions of Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, which worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

May said that “as far as I’m aware” the British government has no contracts with Cambridge Analytica or its parent company, SCL.


12:30 p.m.

A British consultant says Cambridge Analytica approached him before Romania’s 2016 parliamentary elections to work for the Social Democratic Party.

Rupert Wolfe Murray told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Mark Turnbull, a senior official at Cambridge Analytica, contacted him in August 2016.

He cited an email where Turnbull wrote: “What we have offered is to embed a two-person team into the current campaign team… to provide ongoing strategic advice and assistance across the campaign…. over the next 2-3 months.”

Wolfe Murray said he declined the offer because he does not work for political parties. It was unclear whether Cambridge Analytica played a role in the Dec. 2016 elections, where the Social Democrats won about 46 percent of the vote. The Liberals came second with 20 percent.

Separately, investigative platform RISE project reported that SCL Group, a British strategic communication company affiliated to Cambridge Analytica, set up an office in Romania in 2011.


12:20 p.m.

A sell-off in Facebook shares is heading into the third consecutive day, with almost $50 billion in market capitalization evaporating since the start of the week.

The stock fell 1.5 percent before the opening bell Wednesday and, after falling 9 percent, it’s one of the worst weeks in company history.

Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are calling for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify on the issue, but he has been silent since a story broke Friday about how a firm tied to the campaign of Donald Trump improperly lifted data on 50 million Facebook users.

That firm, Cambridge Analytica, suspended CEO Alexander Nix pending an investigation.


11:15 a.m.

Company filings show that Trump-affiliated data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica has a link to a Chinese security and logistics company run by Erik Prince, the former mercenary who founded private military company Blackwater.

British corporate records show that Alexander Nix, the suspended chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, is also director of a company called Emerdata Ltd. that was incorporated in August 2017.

Other Emerdata directors include people associated with Cambridge Analytica, along with Johnson Ko Chun Shun, who was appointed in January.

Ko is also deputy chairman of Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group, whose chairman is Prince.

FSG has attracted attention because of concerns Prince plans to provide special forces veterans to assist Chinese companies investing in risky locations overseas.

China’s biggest state-owned company, Citic, is a major FSG shareholder.


9:40 a.m.

The Cambridge University researcher who developed an app used by Cambridge Analytica to harvest data from millions of Facebook users claims he has been made a scapegoat.

Alexandr Kogan told BBC on Wednesday he believed all the information he provided was obtained legitimately. He said he was approached by Cambridge Analytica, which is being investigated by British and U.S. authorities for possible misuse of data.

He said: “They approached me. In terms of the usage of Facebook data they wrote the terms of service for the app, they provided the legal advice that this was all appropriate.”

Kogan admitted he did not ask enough questions about the data use and did not have a lawyer review the agreement.

Cambridge Analytica has suspended its top executive as possible misuse of data is checked.

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