Facebook has been under fire for its huge control it has over users’ information. Facebook has acquired Instagram and Whatsapp, which made users skeptical regarding Facebook’s integrity towards handling this vast amount of user information. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, has made several statements last year reassuring Facebook’s control and disposition to [double] our engineering efforts focused on security”.
But the system is penetrated, and data of 50 million users was leaked and used in ways they don’t necessarily understand, and here’s how it all happened.
Cambridge Analytica, is a British political consulting firm that was affiliated with Donald Trump’s electoral campaign and the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum. The political firm was extended from London to the US by Steve Bannon who approached conservative billionaires, Rebekah and Robert Mercer to fund the political consulting firm. Steve Bannon was Trump’s senior adviser before getting fired in August 2017.
Cambridge Analytica is headed by Alexander Nix as its CEO and Steve Bannon as the firm’s vice president. Based on Nix’s request; Christopher Wylie, who worked for the data firm met Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian American who worked at the University of Cambridge. Kogan provided Cambridge Analytica with a quiz called thisismydigitallife that collects data from those who take that quiz and their friends. Even though Facebook prohibits apps from selling collected data, Cambridge Analytica sold what they obtained.
According to Wylie, Cambridge Analytica was under pressure to find an efficient method of data collection after receiving the huge investment that started the company. “We spent a million dollars, harvesting millions of Facebook profiles and those profiles were used as the basis of the algorithms that became the foundation of Cambridge Analytica itself”, said Wylie in his interview with The Gaurdian.
After these statements, Facebook users became doubtful of Facebook’s ability to protect the data they provide through their profiles. The movement started immediately on social media with hashtags like #deletefacebook, and expression of fears of conspiracy and manipulation.
Mark Zuckerberg, made another statement on Facebook, where he confirmed that Facebook was aware of the Cambridge Analytica’s data situation, where the latter promised to delete the data but apparently they didn’t. Zuckerberg also confirmed previous procedures that were made by Facebook to protect its users from apps that collect personal information.
Facebook took responsibility in handling the data to Cambridge Anlytica, and Zuckerberg made a promise to be more careful next time.
image source: The Economist