By: Madison Gilbride
Ever wonder how the data you upload to Facebook is being used? Well recently millions of Facebook profiles had been exploited for unforeseen and unidentified purposes. With this case, many users question the legitimacy of Facebook and if they should delete their profile. This issue grew from a complicated web of relationships. The Trump campaign with the help of some political consulting firm known as Cambridge Analytica, was basically able to gather raw data from a personality quiz designed by a university researcher, based off over 50 million Facebook profiles.
On March 16th, the New York Times and the Guardian reported that Cambridge Analytica, had gathered access to over 50 million Facebook user profiles. There was talk about how some experts believe the firm could have used this percent of data to have gained an unfair advantage in targeting voters. But it is not clear if the information was even useful to them, it could have just been some type of marketing done by Cambridge Analytica. People believe that this could be considered as one of the biggest public relations crisis Facebook has had to deal with. Many Senators are calling upon Zuckerberg to testify on behalf of the situation, the Federal Trade Commission seems to be digging deeper within the investigation, while some British authorities are researching the scandal from multiple outlets. Meanwhile, the stock price of Facebook has been declining rapidly since the news outbreak.
In short, the start of this story began in 2014 when university researcher Aleksandr Kogan created an app through Facebook called “this is your digital life” over 270,000 people downloaded in on the spot and just gave away their personal information, little did people know Kogan was passing along the data acquired to a Cambridge Analytica, in which went towards assisting the Trump campaign. While at this time, Facebook platform API continued to let developers like Kogan use their information systems to gather data. Fast forward to a few days ago when Christopher Wylie, who’s pervious employment was Cambridge Analytica, confirmed with the New York Times and the Guardian that Kogans usage of the app system was the way in which he was able to obtain as many as 50 million peoples profiles, with the basic assumption that if they could track your Facebook likes, reactions, and shares, they could begin to get some sense of your personality and interest in order to more effectively target you politically. This type of work is known as psychographic profiling. When the Guardian had revealed this scheme a few days back, Facebook then went right to Kogan and Cambridge Analytica and demanded that they delete all of their data obtained in violation of Facebook rules immediately. But in proceeding reports, the reality was that Cambridge Analytica and Kogan never officially deleted the data stored and Facebook never further investigated to see whether or not the data had been deleted as promised.
This report angered many loyal Facebook users, which gets to the heart of the reason as to why people are deleting their Facebook accounts right now. Facebook made it easy for developers like Kogan to be granted access to all forms of data and to share it from behind the scenes. The scandal brought upon an all-time low amount of trust in Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg did not speak up on behalf of Facebook in regards to these attention grabbing stories until about 5 days after, when he finally announced some plans to address the abuse of the data firms. Facebook stopped developers from gaining access to information and for those who previously had access, Facebook is demanding that they submit an audit of their data or be kicked off the platform. Now it is about going a step further. On Wednesday he ended up writing a Facebook post addressing this scandal head on and proceeded to interview with CNN to explain “This was a major breach of trust and I’m really sorry this happened” and further add: “Our responsibility now is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The ultimate question is; will this fix the problem? From one perspective it is most definitely a start, blocking developers from having access to Facebook user’s data will help to rebuild users trust. But on a larger issue for Zuckerberg, what is he going to do on a personal level for the users of Facebook? Will users continue to stay on Facebook with knowledge that this type of scandal could happen again? Or will numbers continue to drop based on no movement towards a solid resolution? Facebook users are eagerly awaiting a change.