Mariah Partin, Staff Writer
Facebook was recently involved with a huge data breach, which entailed a release of personal information of millions of users. According to Facebook, data was originally collected by a professor and then shared with third parties, such as Cambridge Analytica. Up to 87 million people may have been affected. According to the Guardian, more than one million people in the U.K., the Philippines, and Indonesia have had their personal information harvested, as well as an estimated 310,000 Australian Facebook users.
All 2.2 billion Facebook users received a notice titled “Protecting your information,” with a link to see what apps they use and what information has been shared with those apps. Then, they can shut off these apps individually or will be able to turn off the third-party access to this information. Cambridge Analytica admitted to obtaining information through Global Science Research (GSR), a company run by researcher Aleksander Kogan. This information was collected through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife”, built by Cambridge University’s Kogan. Thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and consented to have their data collected, allowing the app to take their personal information as well as information about each participant’s friends.
The LA Times reported a class action lawsuit against Facebook for the breach of up to 87 million users’ personal information. The 87 million was a figure calculated by the maximum number of friends the affected users could have had while using Kogan’s app. The lawsuit has claimed that Cambridge Analytica used the information to target audiences for campaign ads, but the company denies this claim. Cambridge Analytica released a statement telling people they obtained information on 30 million users from GSR legally and did not use this research for the campaign. They also reported to have taken legal action against GSR for breaching this contract.
In an interview with the Guardian, Christopher Wylie, who worked with Cambridge University, stated that they built models to exploit what they learned about people. Facebook now has new policies to prevent third party sharing, deleting messenger calls, and no longer showing personal information including religion or political views.
On Tuesday, April 10, and Wednesday, April 11, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat through ten hours of questioning by members of congress. He was remorseful and explained Facebook’s plans to further protect user privacy. House and Senate members strongly questioned Facebook’s extensive ways of tracking users across the internet, something many of us have witnessed in the form of targeted ads which Facebook began doing in 2014. One thing that we did not learn from Zuckerberg’s questioning was just how much information Facebook does have about you, and whether they do or not even after you delete it.
At this point, if you’re a Facebook user, the company has built up an advertising profile that cannot be deleted. The Guardian reported that Facebook knew the data was being collected in 2015 but did not do anything about it. As of now, Zuckerberg has refused to confirm the third-party in which the information was leaked from GSR, but has remained that there are still investigations happening. Zuckerberg did admit that if they discover something is amiss with Cambridge’s research, they may sue the institution. This event will likely bring about more regulation for Facebook, perhaps something like the EU’s General data protection regulation (GDPR).