Facebook has been involved in a new privacy scandal. A few days ago, it emerged that data firm Cambridge Analytica has harvested data from over 50 million Facebook users, data which was used to target voters during the US election campaign in 2016. The data was used by the Trump campaign and there are reports that indicate that the firm was influential in the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK as well.
According to the whistleblower who uncovered the scandal, Cambridge Analytica would pay Facebook users to take a quiz as an entry point to their data. The data analytics company would then proceed to collect data from the users’ friends without their permission or authorization from Facebook.
Cambridge Analytica founder Christopher Wylie was the first to come forward regarding the breach. In an interview with The Guardian, Wylie said that Facebook was aware that Cambridge Analytica had harvested a huge amount of data from its platform since 2015. In response, the social media giant deleted the quiz and wrote a letter through its lawyers asking Cambridge Analytica to delete whatever data the firm had collected. However, despite the intent, Facebook never really did anything else. Once the letters were delivered, the company didn’t follow up with Cambridge Analytica or put any pressure on the data firm to make sure the data was gone.
When news of the data breach broke, there was instantaneous outrage from all quarters. Politicians, in particular, called out the social media company for how it handled the breach. However, more concerning to Facebook is the fact that users on the platform are starting to doubt the company’s privacy terms.
The way in which the Cambridge Analytica illegitimate data harvesting was handled by Facebook once it became aware of the situation raises many serious questions about the company’s commitment to user privacy. As a result, #DeleteFacebook is now trending as Facebook users express uncertainty on Facebook’s ability to guarantee their privacy.
Facebook’s response to these latest developments has also been muted. The company released a statement early this week saying that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform including its founder and whistleblower Christopher Wylie. The social media company also confirmed that it is investigating the possibility that its staff was involved in the breach.
Despite this, the company could be staring at one of its worst PR crisis ever. Facebook stocks also lost 8% in value since the news of the breach came to light. The personal data harvested by Cambridge Analytica was used to develop psychographic profiles. The profiles assessed a number of things including IQ, personality traits, and political views.
According to the data firm, the analysis was quite in-depth. So far, authorities in the US and the UK are considering pursuing investigations on Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. In fact, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg could be asked to appear in front of the US Senate to shed more light on the breach and other privacy issues.