Facebook, the revolutionary social networking giant, has sent its users and its most addicted fans alike in a frenzy with news of Cambridge Analytica (CA) allegedly using the Facebook user data in an attempt to influence voter opinion for the best interests of politicians who hired them. Following this finding, Facebook made an apology amid fallen stock prices and a huge hue and cry from the public. Cambridge Analytica collected the data of 87 million Facebook users in a manner which is called “inappropriate” by many who were seemingly affected by the data scandal as it comprised of all their personally identifiable information that can also be used to analyze one’s political inclinations. The scandal was vital for egging on a public discussion regarding ethical standards for social media companies and politicians or political consulting organizations.
( Image source – Flickr )
In December 2015, The Guardian reported that Ted Cruz, the United States Senator was using data from this transgression where the subjects of this data were unaware that companies were selling and politicians were paying for their private details.
How did the ‘data breach’ actually happen?
The data scientist from Cambridge University, Aleksandr Kogan provided his own app ‘this is your digital life’ to Cambridge Analytica which in turn arranged a briefed consent process for research wherein several hundred thousand users of Facebook would give the nod on an academic basis to finish a survey.
It is, of course, the Facebook design that allowed the app not only to collect the personal data of people who agreed to take the survey but even includes the personal information of all the people in that user’s social network in Facebook. In this manner, Cambridge Analytica extracted data from millions of Facebook users since 2014.
( What did the CA’s scandalous data breach cost Facebook? : source – The Quint )
Despite this, the controversial data firm issued a false statement which says that the data obtained from the data scientist Kogan has not been used to influencing people’s pulse in the 2016 presidential campaigns of Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz.
( Cambridge Analytica academic – The man who mined Facebook data: source – Politico Europe )
The ‘Whistleblower’ lets the cat out!
Going by the New York Times report, the dataset by Cambridge Analytica is said to contain data only of 50 million Facebook users. However, if Facebook statement has to be given credence, with 70.6 million of Facebook users from the US alone, the total people whose data was shared went up to 87 million profiles. This statement was avowed by both Facebook and the ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie who was also later famous as the ‘whistleblower’ and was at cross swords with the CA statement which says it only gathered 30 million Facebook user profiles.
In an interview to ‘The Observer’ magazine, Christopher Wylie takes it upon himself as the whistleblower to lift the lid on CA’s data breaching facts. The turn up of events also saw the suspension of the controversial data firm’s services by the tech giant, Facebook.
( The aftermath resulting in a series of events following the CA’s data leak: Image source – PressGazette )
The major ‘takeaways’ from the Big data controversy!
The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook, data leak controversy, has led to a series of things that gained rapid mileage for its tendentious nature. These are the major ones that followed:
- The 2015 campaign led by the US politician Ted Cruz and the 2016 Brexit vote are the political events that espied politicians paying CA to extract information from the data breach better.
- On April 10th of 2018 in his testimony to Congress, Facebook director Zuckerberg apologized on behalf of Facebook and admitted the data scandal as his mistake along with pledging to make reforms in Facebook policy to nip in the bud any similar data breaching efforts in future.
- The Facebook CEO went on to explain that during the US post-election period, they found out a group by the name of Internet Research Agency (IRA) found to actively spread misinformation and manipulated people with fake accounts by using Facebook as a significant platform in the US, Russia, and Europe. The fake accounts were shut down once the situation was tracked down by Facebook.