Social media privacy
How the social media giant has found itself mixed up in a serious data breach
The data-mining scan haunting Facebook.
Facebook has publicly apologized after admitting that the information of tens of millions of users was apparently used without their consent.
In mid 2014, Aleksandr Kogan developed a personality test app, “this is your digital life ,” which was made available on Facebook and downloaded by about 270,000 people. The app collected data about them and their Facebook friends, a total of as many as 50 million people. This was permitted under Facebook rules at the time, but only for specific purposes. However, although Kogan’s app claimed the data would be used for academic research only, he passed it on to a consultancy company called Cambridge Analytica (CA).
CA used “psychographic profiles” built from the harvested data to send microtargeted political messages to identified voters as part of Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 Presidential primary campaign and then the Trump campaign.
It is unproven whether these campaigns had any influence on the outcome of the election, but Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took out ads in US and UK newspapers to apologize for the use of this data, saying it was “a breach of trust.”
In an earlier post, he also pointed out that Facebook changed its rules in 2014 to prohibit apps like Kogan’s from gathering data about a user’s friends without authorization. He also said that in 2015, when it learned that Kogan had shared data with CA, Facebook banned Kogan’s app and demanded that he and CA delete “all improperly acquired data.”
However, whistleblower Christopher Wylie, then a CA employee, told The Guardian that Facebook did not press for a response when its letter to CA initially went unanswered, nor did Facebook follow up with checks on computers or storage.
Zuckerberg said Facebook learned from the media only in mid-March 2018 that CA “may not have deleted the data as they had certified. This was a breach of trust between Kogan, CA and Facebook,” Zuckerberg said. “But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.”
According to Zuckerberg, CA claims it has deleted the data in question. Facebook also plans to “investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information” before the rules changed in 2014.” Plus, Facebook will restrict developers’ access to data further, and add a more prominent tool for controlling privacy settings and app permissions within Facebook.
CA is currently under investigation on both sides of the Atlantic. Zuckerberg said Facebook is cooperating with investigators, but the company is facing a lot of questions about data protection.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said that user profiling and data collection were now so extensive that “probably some wellcrafted regulation is necessary.” He also said that Apple has always made a point of not monetizing user content or collecting more information than necessary.