Facebook is digging its way out of the biggest scandal in the history of social media. Together with the London-based data mining firm, Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has found itself in the eye of a storm over massive data leak. The revelation has opened the lid, and everybody is now asking about the privacy of data added in social media profiles.
“We have a responsibility to protect the user’s data, and if we cannot, we do not deserve to serve you,” said Facebook CEO in one of the Mark Zuckerberg hearing video. While the response has been lauded, the writing was always on the wall. Indeed, data harvesting without users’ consent was ongoing and the social media companies and associated agencies, perhaps have more data about you than you can imagine. Well, could the Facebook data scandal be a tip of the iceberg? Here is a closer look at the story of how things happened.
How Facebook data scandal happened
As everyone was engaged, enjoying daily posts, chats, updates, and sharing group details on Facebook, someone else was busy strategizing how to use that information. A data mining company that is doubted to have helped with the election processes, Cambridge Analytica, acquired an app referred as thisisyourdigitallife from a Cambridge University professor.
The app named thisisyourdigitallife was developed for academic survey and was deployed with Facebook’s approval, to conduct a survey for 270,000 users. However, the app was used to harvest info about the respondents in the survey, their friends and any person connected to them. The app was initially thought to have collected data of 50 million users. However, the inquiries on Cambridge Analytica scandal and congressional hearing have revealed that the details of over 87 million Facebook users were harvested.
The Facebook scandal 2018 is worrying because the trend might have started earlier and applied in more than dozens of other electoral processes or other areas. Here is a closer look at the Facebook scandal and why a lot of your data might still be out there with tech companies without your consent.
The Kogan factor in the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal points to a more serious problem.
When Facebook launched the Open Graph platform to third-party apps in 2010, external developers were allowed to reach out to Facebook users and ask for permission to access their personal data and, by extension the user’s friend’s data too. This was the loophole that a guy named Kogan (creator of thisisyourdigitallife) utilized to access data of about 87 million Facebook users. Once the third party accepts the app, a lot of personal information, including the following was collected;
- User’s name.
- Relationship status.
- Political preference.
- Religious views.
- Online chat history, among others.
The immense data harvested users and the fact that Kogan was allowed to keep a copy of the research means that such info could have been given to other third parties in politics and commerce entities. There are fears that indeed Aleksandr Kogan Cambridge Analytica case will open into new scandals as scrutiny extends even to other social media networks.
How the data harvested using thisisyourdigitallife app was used
In 2013, one of the posts on the Telegraph warned that it was becoming increasingly easy for hackers to get users’ bank details, dates of birth, telephone numbers, and home addresses. Telegraph gives an insight on how Cambridge Analytica scandal was executed. Once your data is harvested, it can be used to influence not just your views about a specific issue, but even those who are close to you on social media.
Though Facebook changed the rules for accessing personal data in 2014 by requiring users first to grant permission, the policy was not retroactively implemented. This means that Kogan was not compelled to delete the data acquired improperly. Here is how the Facebook personal data leak might have been used.
- The Ted Cruz presidential campaign of 2015. The Guardian reported in one of their posts, that Ted Cruz was using Cambridge Analytica for assistance with his presidential campaigns. The report indicated that psychological data was being used to try and help Cruz gain an advantage over his main rivals in the presidential primaries race. Cruz team denied the allegations.
When Facebook learnt of it, Cambridge Analytica and Kogan were pressured to delete data. The two parties certified that the data was deleted.
- The Cambridge Analytica and Donald Trump’s win in the presidential elections. Prior to the presidential elections of the United States in 2016, the Donald Trump team campaigned heavily using Facebook ads.
The move is thought to have targeted assisting Cambridge Analytica to gather more information about the Facebook users. The Trump’s team has denied the allegations.
What are the consequences of the Facebook data scandal?
In mid-March, New York Times and the Guardian released the expose and indicated that as many as 87 million Facebook users’ profiles had been harvested. The expose targeted exposing how the Cambridge Analytica acquired the data. The expose was given by Christopher Wylie, one of the Cambridge Analytica founders.
Cambridge Analytica has come out to refute the claims that any of the Kogan’s data was applied during the 2016 US presidential race. However, Alexander Tayler, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica resigned following the expose.
The Facebook lost over $100 billion just in a few days after the expose. When appearing at a Congressional hearing, Mark Zuckerberg testimony demonstrated that the company failed and accepted responsibility. This was not all; he also posted an apology to Facebook followers on local dailies indicating that he failed and he would do everything possible to fix the problem.
While the Facebook data scandal might have just opened people’s eyes on how data is harvested and used, it is time that the laws and online data security are given greater focus. In May of 2017, Ransomware attacked a number of companies in Europe and encrypted their data. In today’s world, data security is of vital importance, and if you operate online, take every precaution after complete understanding of what is it and how to maintain your data privacy.