A timeline of Facebook's very bad year in 26 parts

Turns out, Cambridge Analytica was just the tip of the iceberg

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Credit: Illustration by Tam Nguyen/ Ad Age

Facebook is like a factory that keeps resetting the number of days since its last OSHA violation: Once again, that number is back to zero. On Wednesday, The New York Times released more internal documents that detail how Facebook made special data arrangements with partners like Microsoft, Amazon and Netflix.

The social network has had a year it wishes it could forget. It started with CEO Mark Zuckerberg promising to address the most pressing issues. Instead of fixing the company, problems only seemed to multiply as the year progressed, from the Cambridge Analytica affair to a major hack to mounting political pressure on both sides of the Atlantic. And today comes this revelation that the social network was developing personalization tools with multiple tech partners, giving them extensive access to user data.

Here's a look at how Facebook's year has gone, from bad beginngs to an unfortunate end:

Jan. 4: Mark Zuckerberg posts his yearly New Year's resolution, promising to address problems that surfaced in 2017. These included more fallout from the Russian disinformation campaign during the 2016 election and hate speech on the service.

March 17: Facebook is accused of allowing Cambridge Analytica to make off with information on tens of millions of users. This turned a spotlight on how Facebook offers access to information about its users; the U.S. Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation too.

April 4: Its privacy and data policies are updated. The changes also anticipate the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation. A few days earlier, Facebook announced the end of third-party data services on the platform.

April 10: Zuckerberg testifies before Congress over the course of two days.

April 30: WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum announces he'll be leaving the social network, four years after Facebook bought his company for $19 billion. His co-founder, Brian Acton, who left in 2017, was reportedly concerned by Facebook's missteps.

May 14: Facebook legal counsel writes a letter to U.K. lawmakers denying a request for Zuckerberg to come speak there.

May 22: Zuckerberg testifies in Brussels before the European Parliament about Cambridge Analytica and data collection practices.

May 24: Facebook delivers on its promise to build an archive to disclose all political ads.

May 25: GDPR takes effect.

June 3: The New York Times reports that Facebook had deals with device manufacturers that gave them access to user data for years. Facebook said it would discontinue the relationships.

June 4: Ahead of its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook says Facebook's "privacy thing has gotten totally out of control." The remarks reportedly set Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg on an overzealous path to discredit Apple and other critics.

June 7: Facebook finds a "bug" that changed 14 million people's privacy settings. The glitch reset the default sharing setting to "public," even if the people had refined their sharing preferences to only include select friends. For about 10 days in May, people could have accidentally shared posts to the public when they were meant to be private.

July 10: The U.K. sets a $664,000 fine for the Cambridge Analytica data abuse, the highest possible fine under the old rules in place before GDPR.

July 18: In an interview with Recode's Kara Swisher, Zuckerberg says even "Holocaust denial" could be acceptable content on the platform despite how abhorrent it is.

July 25: Second-quarter results show Facebook's daily users declined by 3 million to 279 million people in Europe after the transition to GDPR.

July 31: The company removes 32 pages operated by bad actors on Facebook and Instagram, activity similar to that Russia undertook in 2016. The announcement of the page takedowns represented Facebook's more open stance on disclosing such attacks.

Aug. 10: Alex Jones' pages get removed for his conspiracy mongering.

Sept. 24: Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Instagram's founders, depart Facebook after six years with the company that acquired their app for $1 billion. Reports suggest they were bucking under Zuckerberg's tightened leadership.

Sept. 26: WhatsApp's co-founder Brian Acton tells Forbes he was a sellout for giving his company to Facebook, and claims Zuckerberg broke a promise not to monetize the app too quickly.

Sept. 28: Facebook reveals its largest security breach ever, which could have exposed personal information from 50 million accounts, a number it would later revise to 30 million.

Oct. 8: Facebook's ill-timed Portal is released. The home video-messaging device could lead to privacy concerns at a time when Facebook doesn't need the questions.

Oct. 15: The New York Times reports on the devastating uses of Facebook in Myanmar, where government officials promoted propaganda to encourage ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. The social network has been removing hundreds of pages, and by December was still taking down more accounts run by Myanmar's military, which is accused of carrying out the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.

Nov. 14: The New York Times publishes a blockbuster report on Facebook's response to the biggest problems on the platform, claiming leaders were more interested in denying and deflecting than accepting responsibility.

Dec. 5: A U.K. lawmaker releases internal Facebook emails that show how the company deliberated about sharing data with developers back in 2012. Facebook maintains that it never sells anyone's data.

Dec. 14: Facebook reveals a "bug" could have impacted up to 6.8 million people. It's the second such bug this year, giving developers a potential glimpse into personal content they should not be able to access. This one exposed photos that people never shared publicly, allowing them to be accessed by apps that use Facebook's photos API. The first bug, in June, reset the privacy settings for 14 million people, potentially causing users to share posts more publicly than they expected.

Dec. 18: Dating back to 2010, Facebook pursued deals with other tech giants it considered "integration partners" to build internet services with "instant personalization" for users. Facebook and partners like Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, Netflix and Spotify were developing products backed by the personal information shared on the social network.

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