“What you put on Facebook, stays on Facebook. (And anyone can take it).” This has been implied umpteen times before, but here is more proof for the non-believers. Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, used Facebook data to influence voting behavior by identifying user personalities using certain procedures. The firm obtained the data through an external researcher in 2014 by paying users to take a personality quiz and download an app that enabled access to small amounts of personal information.
Cambridge Analytica was founded by political adviser Stephen Bannon and Republican billionaire Robert Mercer. The data was said to be taken for academic purposes, which apparently Facebook did not bother to verify. This data was said to have been used for the 2016 Trump campaign, although its effectiveness has been questioned.
Facebook did not inform its users about the data misuse and its failure to do so is seen as a violation in both the US and Britain. Many questions have been raised on fake news on Facebook which is rumored to be key in meddling with important political events like the US election and even Brexit.
US lawmakers said they would call upon Facebook to furnish an explanation on the company’s knowledge of data misuse on its website, and its role in political advertising and voter manipulation.
Facebook took a defensive stand and said this could not be counted as a data breach as no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or information were stolen. The social media company’s executives blamed Cambridge Analytica and the researcher’s app, announcing the suspension of their accounts.
Facebook also suspended the account of another data expert who was involved in the data procurement, and even went on to threaten a news organization with legal action for reporting the incident.
Experts who have been analyzing this situation pointed out that the lack of oversight and transparency on Facebook’s part in protecting user data widens the scope for more exploitation. If one firm could harvest data and misuse it, what’s to stop many others from doing the same?
Facebook has once again come under fire from political and regulatory fronts, and this could trigger an investigation by the FTC which in turn could lead to hefty fines of billions of dollars. Facebook has faced criticism multiple times over its policies on data usage and protection along with the possibility of legal action.