Facebook's 2018 timeline: Scandals, hearings and security bugs

Few tech companies have endured a year like Facebook did in 2018.
Image: Life-sized cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sit on the lawn of the Capitol before he appears at committee hearings on April 10, 2018.
Life-sized cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sit on the lawn of the Capitol before he appears at committee hearings on April 10, 2018.Zach Gibson / Getty Images file

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By Jason Abbruzzese and Jasmin Boyce

Few tech companies have endured a year like Facebook did in 2018.

Certainly the social network hadn't. While questions about Facebook's handling of user data had been a topic of conversation among privacy advocates for years, the company endured what seemed like a different scandal each week.

And for all of them, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder, chief executive and public face of the company, was pushed for answers. Zuckerberg, who is also chairman of the company's board of directors, exercises near-total control of the company that has made him one of the richest people in the world.

Facebook's brutal year can be seen in part through that net worth. Using data from Bloomberg's "Billionaires Index," we've included charts showing Zuckerberg's net worth alongside a timeline of some of Facebook's biggest issues of 2018.

What kind of swing did Zuckerberg's wallet see in 2018? He started the year worth around $73 billion, hit a precipitous height of more than $86 billion, and now sits around $53 billion. He's going to be just fine.

The future of Facebook's core social network? That's up for some debate.

January to March

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  • Jan. 4: Zuckerberg posts his New Year's resolution, stating that his "personal challenge" would be focused on fixing Facebook's issues: abuse and hate, state-based misinformation and election interference, and making sure time on Facebook is "well spent."
  • Feb. 12: A German court finds that Facebook failed to ask people if it could collect their data for advertising purposes, violating the country's data privacy laws.
  • Feb. 16: A Belgian court rules that Facebook had broken privacy laws by tracking people on third-party sites.
  • March 19: The Cambridge Analytica data scandal breaks, a story that kickstarts broader concern about what kind of access to use data Facebook gave to other companies and apps.
  • March 26: The Federal Trade Commission says its is opening an investigation into Facebook's privacy practices. Facebook stock takes a hit.

April to June

July to September

  • July 2: Facebook confirms that it's under investigation by the FBI, SEC, FTC and the Department of Justice over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • July 26: Facebook stock plummets on disappointing second quarter earnings.
  • Aug. 17: The Housing and Urban Development department files a complaint against Facebook for allowing housing discrimination through targeted ads.
  • Sept. 24: Instagram's founders leave after clashes with Zuckerberg.
  • Sept. 26: In an interview with Forbes, WhatsApp co-founded Brian Acton calls himself a sellout for selling his company to Facebook.
  • Sept. 28 Facebook announces a security flaw that allowed an unknown party to take over almost 50 million accounts.

October to December

  • Oct. 12: Facebook updates that the security flaw allowed hackers to see personal info of 14 million people.
  • Oct. 25: The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) fines Facebook £500,000, or about $645,000, the highest punishment it can dish out for a data breach.
  • Nov. 14: The New York Times publishes an extensive piece about Facebook's efforts to "delay, deny and deflect" inquiries about its handling of foreign election interference, including that Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, was involved in efforts to retaliate against critics.
  • Nov. 16: Four U.S. senators ask Zuckerberg in a letter whether his company had hired a firm to collect and disseminate information about Facebook critics, including elected officials.
  • Nov. 27: Lawmakers from nine countries tear into Zuckerberg for failing to attend an international committee hearing on misinformation.
  • Nov. 27: A former Facebook manager publicly accuses Facebook of having a “black people problem."
  • Dec. 5: A U.K. lawmaker releases internal Facebook emails that highlight the company's aggressive tactics.
  • Dec. 14: Facebook apologizes after a security flaw exposes unpublished photos to app developers.

On Friday, Zuckerberg posted about what the company has done to meet his 2018 goals. The post lays out the company's efforts to develop technology and add staff to prevent election interference, moderate content and make sure people are using their security settings.

"I've learned a lot from focusing on these issues and we still have a lot of work ahead," Zuckerberg wrote.

Left unsaid is that Zuckerberg now faces significant calls to relinquish some power at Facebook — calls he has resisted. That decision — and the future of Facebook — is ultimately up to him.

But after a particularly brutal 2018, Zuckerberg will run Facebook under more scrutiny than ever. Facebook may be watching its users, but its users are now watching Facebook.