How Personal Data of 50 Million Facebook Users Was Turned Into A Political Tool?


What happens when you own a data firm that has just secured a $15 million funding, and you’ve managed to gain a heavyweight client with the promise of delivering insights related to American voters? You try to push your boundaries and give your best. But, what if your data firm doesn’t have enough data to do the magic and deliver results?

Here, I’m talking about the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica (CA) that grabbed the information from the Facebook profiles of around 50 million users without their consent.

Cambridge Analytica, which worked as the technology provider for Trump and Brexit Leave campaign, managed to do this using an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.”

The firm pulled the data from 270,000 app users that gave express permissions as well as their 50 million unaware friends, according to the New York Times. The app was developed by University of Cambridge psychology professor named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan. This revelation was made by a whistleblower named Christopher Wylie, a former research director at CA.

Facebook has now acknowledged that the data did end up in wrong hands but the company refrains itself from calling it a data breach. “People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked,” a blog post said.

The social network has also suspended any business with CA and its holding company. Wylie further claims that the firm determined what kind of emotional/visual messages would affect users. Using the same, they were shown targeted advertisements and false information.

In the latest development, Facebook has suspended the account of Wylie. “Suspended by Facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for two years,” he tweeted on Sunday.

In a statement, CA has said that “all Facebook data and their derivatives” was deleted. Further, it claims that it didn’t use any of the data in question for Trump’s campaign. On the contrary, The New York Times report states that CA still possesses most or all of the data and Facebook is conducting an internal and external review to determine the existence of data.

Meanwhile, Facebook continues to face criticism and the upcoming few weeks will be critical for the company.

What are your views on these developments? Share your views in the comments section. Also, in case you’re ready to take the next step, here’s how to delete your Facebook account permanently.

Adarsh Verma

Adarsh Verma

Fossbytes co-founder and an aspiring entrepreneur who keeps a close eye on open source, tech giants, and security. Get in touch with him by sending an email — [email protected]
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