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Regulators should consider making Facebook erase all user info, says ex-Thomson Reuters CEO

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Life-sized cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wearing 'Fix Fakebook' t-shirts are displayed by advocacy group, Avaaz, on the South East Lawn of the Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The former CEO of financial data giant Thomson Reuters said regulators should consider making Facebook delete its entire database of information on users.

Tom Glocer, who ran Thomson Reuters between 2008 and 2011, said: “I think actually, just breaking up Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp won’t be enough because Facebook having whatever it is, two and a half billion folks — if you really want to go after them you have to go deeper and essentially declare a date by which they have to, in effect, erase all of the data they have achieved to date and start fresh with what I called informed consent and micropayments.”

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Glocer made the comment on a panel at the Consensus conference in New York on Monday. It came in response to a question about a recent op-ed from Facebook’s cofounder Chris Hughes in the New York Times calling for the social networking giant’s breakup.

“I thought it was very courageous of him,” Glocer said.

“As he pointed out Zuckerberg and Sheryl are not ogres either. They’re kind, well intentioned people but after a while, you build something like this, you just believe your own side of everything. We’re not evil, therefore everything we do is good.”

Facebook has faced a huge backlash globally over its use of customer data and metadata after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke last year. The company has repeatedly insisted that it does not sell or improperly use customer data.

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Glocer said regulators could force Facebook to adopt an opt-in system requiring users to consent to how their data is used and to be given payment each time it is used.

“If Mark came out and just declared: ‘June 30 next year, we’re going to wipe out your histories, here’s your chance to download your own if you want to keep it, and here are the new rules of the road you explicitly opt into’, I would leave all those companies in his world,” Glocer said.

“You could do it instead of [breaking them up]. There’s no intrinsic reason why it’s awful that they own Instagram and WhatsApp, although they do seem to be rushing the clean up and converge the back ends to make it harder to break them up.”

Glocer also talked about banks’ experiments with cryptocurrency, saying banks are unlikely to use the technology on a large scale any time soon.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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