Facebook’s been going through a major crisis the last few days, ever since a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower broke out with the news that Facebook’s data has been used to manipulate elections around the world.
In an article published last weekend, the New York Times came out with information directly from a source, that Facebook had been used to collect users’ data which was used to influence major elections in the past few years.
Christopher Wylie, formerly of Cambridge Analytica, blew the whistle on his work influencing and manipulating elections over the weekend.
Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a privately-owned data-orientated company. The company focuses on data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis to help its clients influence target audiences better through strategic information and communications.
The company has used their data to provide services to both commercial and political uses.
During the US election of 2016, which saw President Trump win his seat at the White House, Cambridge Analytica’s work for the candidate’s team proved vital for the win.
According to Wylie, “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”
To provide the services it promised, the company harvested over 50 million Facebook users’ personal data without permission, becoming Facebook’s largest data leak in history. This allowed the analytics company to exploit private social media activity from the platform, using it to create techniques and communication strategies that were extremely successful.
Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, and other officials had repeatedly denied obtaining or using Facebook data, but with Wylie’s confession, both companies are now under heavy scrutiny.
According to a recent press release, CA has suspended Nix pending an investigation.
It is important to note that since the 2016 elections, and Britain’s Brexit movement where CA also played a role, CA has been under investigation by both government bodies.
After months of avoiding direct questioning on the investigations against CA, this weekend’s confession has finally led to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to speak out.
Facebook has already been in hot water since allegations against the social media network about the spread of fake news and Russia’s influence on the US elections in 2016.
Zuckerberg’s post discusses the timeline of the scandal, starting from the social network’s beginnings to the personality app that accumulated the data before it was sold to CA.
The data that was mined from the website was during a time when Facebook’s rules on how much data applications could take from users was more lenient. Since that time, according to Zuckerberg’s post, they “chang[ed] the entire platform to dramatically limit the data apps could access.”
The Facebook CEO had been quiet since the confession surfaced, and it seems he waited in order to get a better control on the situation. The CEO mentions in his post the ways they are currently planning to fight against future data leaks.
According to the post, Facebook will be launching investigations on all applications that accessed large amounts of data before the platform’s change to reduce data access in 2014.
Apps that are found to have abused or “misused” personal data will be banned from the platform and affected users will be told. Further restrictions will also be applied to prevent future abuses, including removing an application’s access to a user’s data if they haven’t used the app in 3 months.
Unfortunately, the post also confirms that Facebook did know about the leak many years before, angering Europe and certain states in the US which have laws against keeping data leaks secret.
It is worth noting that the EU’s decision for the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which will be fully implemented on Sunday, was created to help prevent such a crisis. It is also important to question whether or not Facebook will be charged in Europe under the strict penalties of the GDPR.
Learn more about it here > Will the new General Data Protection Regulation affect us outside of the EU?
Zuckerberg ends his statement stating “I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform. I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community.”
“While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.”