Facebook to inform users on data scandal
Today Facebook is due to inform individuals on a breach of personal data that has affected up to 87 million users.
The data mining incident saw the personal information of a significant number of social media users comprised and passed to British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in an event that CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg is now calling a “huge mistake”.
The information was harvested in 2014 from a personality quiz application called ‘This Is Your Digital Life’, produced by data researcher Aleksander Kogan who paid for approximately 270,000 people to take the quiz.
Personal data was then lifted from users who had taken part (and alarmingly) also their network of friends. The problem with this is that information which users had not agreed to share was taken – something that has been put down to Facebook’s then lax attitude to data protection.
The information harvested was sold to Cambridge Analytica, a company which has worked on political operations including Donald Trump's Presidential campaign and the UK’s Brexit referendum. It is thought that the information breached was then used to influence political results by using profiling techniques to target ads at certain users.
The scope of the scandal has resulted in serious questions being asked of Facebook, and its wider role in society. With social networks like Facebook holding so much data, it is crucial that it assesses its responsibility and protects users – making clear where data is being used and by who. The fact that Cambridge Analytica harnessed information to influence political events shines a harsh light on the vulnerability of social order and the power of social networks.
Each of the 2.2 billion users of Facebook will receive a notice on their profile today titled ‘Protecting Your Information’. Underneath this notice users who have been affected will see a button named ‘See how you’re affected’ stating that a website may have misused their data and that Facebook are now trying to put users back in control of their privacy. For users unaffected a similar banner will appear promoting them to go to the apps and websites section of their profile to remove unwanted apps.
The majority of those affected are from the United States; however there are others who have been affected in the United Kingdom, Philippines and Indonesia.
Following the scandal Facebook has put limits on how apps can access our data, but it is unclear whether its reputation has already been irreparably damaged.