The world’s biggest social media platform is taking a big hit in the public eye right now, as it was recently revealed that Facebook improperly shared personal data on about 50 million people with an outside company during the 2016 election cycle. The firm Cambridge Analytica reportedly used this data to help Donald Trump during the campaign.
The issue is not that a third party used digital data for a political candidate; that’s pretty commonplace. The problem is that the company had permission to mine the data of about 270,000 people from those people, but the data mining also allegedly collected information from those people’s friends as well, resulting in about 50 million people’s data being leaked.
The company has denied that it kept this information past the time when Facebook ordered the data deleted.
Cambridge Analytica claimed it had deleted all the data shared by GSR when it discovered this information was collected in breach of Facebook's terms of service and had no reason to believe the data was obtained illegally.
The leak was discovered all the way back in 2015, and Facebook booted Cambridge Analytica off of their platform. But the social network did not verify that the data was deleted, and it wasn’t. Facebook failed to notify these 50 million people that their data was breached, and the company is taking a hit financially from the news.
At the end of the trading day on Wall Street, Facebook stock lost nearly 7% of its value, about $40 billion.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who helped to blow the cover on the story, described just how that data was used.
"We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles," Wylie told The Observer. "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."
Cambridge Analytica has denied that the company kept the data after it was leaked to them, but Wylie's claims still remain in play, and are causing a great deal of concern from a wide variety of circles across the world.
Facebook is not only facing market pressure, but also pressure from European governments who claim that the company violated laws that are supposed to protect people’s data from such leaks, and misled regulators about the nature of the breach.
Mark Zuckerberg himself could be called to testify about the breach in front of the United Kingdom’s House of Commons. Indeed, it seems to be a breach not only of data, but also of trust on an unprecedented level.
There are a lot of important questions that we need to ask ourselves in light of this data leak if proven true. If you’re on the internet, you’ve put some level of your information out there. If you’ve made purchases online, you’ve put your information out there. If you have a social media account, you’ve given out even more information.
Most of us likely signed up for a network to keep us connected with friends and family who live far away from us, or just to see more of what’s going on in our friends’ lives more frequently, but it’s turned into something else entirely; at least so it seems.
If true, does this change your opinion about being on Facebook or other social media? It’s certainly making me think about how wise it might be.