Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
Two weeks ago we wrote a post about what you really sign up for when you join Facebook. We created that post as a response to the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, where 87 million Americans had their information harvested by voter profiling company, Cambridge Analytica. The information was taken by a third party app, created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan, and used in connection to President’s Trumps 2016 presidential campaign.
Now we are about a month in this Social Media debacle, and the story continues to develop. Facebook developer Mark Zuckerberg has been taking part in congressional hearings meant to take a harder look at the billion-dollar social media company, and how it plans to prevent not just information harvesting, but also incident’s such as the Russian social media influence in the 2016 election.
Also last week, victims of the Cambridge Analytica exploitation were alerted to the fact by Facebook. We talked to two individuals affected by the incident, to get a better idea of how this information breach has affected real people.
Rebecca is a female in her 50s and works in the non-profit sector. Alex is a male in his early 20s, currently attending college for graphic design. Rebecca and Alex both use Facebook, and technology as a whole, very differently.
Rebecca is an avid Facebook user but just downloaded the app onto her smartphone in the last few months. Facebook is the only social media platform she uses, and she mainly uses it to talk to friends, keep in contact with her kids, and post statuses. In general, Rebecca is not a big technology user, she told us that she uses “the computer, the TV, and [her] smartphone, but not much else”.
As a graphic designer, photographer, and gamer Alex uses technology constantly in his everyday life. He is on several different social media platforms but tries to use Facebook as little as possible. When asked about his Facebook use, Alex explained the lengths he was already going to minimize the access Facebook had to his information.
“I’ve hardly been commenting on posts, and almost never make posts of my own. I avoid talking to anyone using Messenger. I use a suite of chrome extensions to disable Facebook’s ability to track me over the web. Also, I don’t use any Facebook apps on my phone, besides Instagram, which has limited permissions.”
What They Saw
Neither Rebecca nor Alex directly used Kogan’s app, yet they both logged on to Facebook last week to see this notification at the top of their feeds:
When they clicked on “Get More Information”, they were led here:
This incident didn’t come as a shock to Alex or Rebecca. In fact, both of them already assumed Facebook was gathering their information.
“It wasn’t surprising, to be frank,” said Alex, “I am very aware of how much data Facebook collects and sells, and I know that while they claim to anonymize the data it ends up getting de-anonymized in the end.”
R felt that “people made too big a deal over it”. She says that she always warned her friends and family that “ you have to be careful what you put on social media because it is public and it basically belongs to Facebook once you put it up there.”
Alex and Rebecca don’t plan on changing the way they use Facebook going forward. They both feel they are already using Facebook in a smart and responsible way. They are not in the norm here though.
American’s trust in Facebook has dropped 66% percent since the “misuse” of personal information went public. In response, Facebook is revamping its security measures.
On April 4th, Facebook released an article outlining how they plan to “Restrict Data Access on Facebook”. Their plan includes,
- Doubling down on the information third-party apps have access to. Including those apps, you choose to log into through Facebook.
- Removing the ability to search for Facebook users by phone number or email address.
- No longer allowing “third-party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook.”
- And most importantly putting more power in the Facebook users’ hands, by creating an App Control tab in the security section of their page.
This is how you can go in and check what apps you are using through Facebook, what information they are accessing, remove unwanted apps, and even see apps you have used in the past.
More security changes are predicted for the coming months. Zuckerberg hinted that the security changes taking place in Europe next month will eventually become global. The security changes are in response to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
These security measures include changes to Facebook’s facial recognition software that automatically recognizes user’s faces, and tags them in pictures. Courts in Canada and the EU have already ruled that the software is a violation of privacy law, and Facebook is currently facing a class action lawsuit over the software in the US. As of right now, you can opt-out of using the software in your Facebook settings, this is how:
This chapter in Facebook’s history is far from over, and it is just one of the many struggles lawmakers are facing over the Internet. Whether it is the battle over net neutrality, defining broadband, or the protection of IoT consumers, changes are happening in the World Wide Web. Even Zuckerberg is aware that the government’s role in the Internet is going to increase. During his hearing, he warned Rep. Frank Upton (R-Mich)
“The Internet is growing in importance in people’s lives. It’s inevitable that there will be regulation. We need to be careful about the regulation we put in place.”
Now more than ever it is important to understand the role technology takes in all our lives. Whatever happens, these regulations will affect businesses as much, if not more than private individuals. A consultation might be helpful in understanding the risks and advantages technology poses to your business.