The data belonging to 50 million Facebook users has been stolen according to British news outlet The Guardian. Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm, has allegedly harvested over 50 million Facebook accounts, without consent, in order to build a system that would boost Donald Trump’s chances to win the 2016 presidential election. The firm has come under increasing pressure both in the USA and UK. In the United Kingdom, it is also claimed that Cambridge Analytica could have affected the Brexit voting process.
50 Million Facebook User Profiles Compromised
A Whistleblower Lifts the Lid
There is no denying the cyber power-houses like Facebook and Google have become too powerful. Christopher Wylie, who has worked with Cambridge Analytica had told the Observer that his firm, with his help, had created a “cultural weapon” that would sway the 2016 Election into Trump’s favor. Wylie expressed his deep regret for his actions and was looking to redeem himself by lifting the lid on probably the biggest cyber-scandal of all times.
“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”
Wylie also claims that “Facebook has known about this for at least two years and did almost nothing to fix it.”
You can get a better idea of how the whole process began by watching the video The Guardian posted on Youtube below.
How Was the Data of 50 Million Facebook Users Harvested?
The data was collected by an app called thisisyourdigitallife. The application was created by Aleksandr Kogan, who owns Global Science Research (GSR), in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica. Thousands of Facebook users were basically asked to take a personality test, agreeing for their data to be collected for academic use in the process. GSL then sold the data they collected to Cambridge Analytica it has been claimed.
Facebook claims that by passing information on to a third party, including Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie, Kogan violated their platform’s policies. “When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.”
Cambridge Analytica Denies the Claims
The data analytics firms denied all these claims via Twitter. “We refute these mischaracterizations and false allegations.” They stated that they only “use client and commercially and publicly available data; we don’t use or hold any Facebook data.” Adding that when they learned that GSR had sold them Facebook data that it shouldn’t have done, they “deleted it all – system wide audit to verify.”
In response to being suspended by Facebook’s advertising platform, Cambridge Analytica stated that they had fully complied with Facebook’s policies, denying any wrongdoings. “We worked with Facebook over this period to ensure that they were satisfied that we had not knowingly breached any of Facebook’s terms of service and also provided a signed statement to confirm that all Facebook data and their derivatives had been deleted,”
Facebook Also Responds
Before the Observer broke the scandal, Facebook lawyers contacted them, asking not to run the story. According to Facebook, the Observer was making “false and defamatory” allegations and reserved Facebook’s legal position. Facebook claimed that they were not collaborating with Cambridge Analytica and that the harvesting of 50 million Facebook profiles was a data breach instead.
The documents that the Observer was able to see confirmed that Facebook had actually found out that information related to 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. But, instead of alerting the users, Facebook only took limited procedure to recover and secure that private data.
Facebook also suspended Christopher Wylie’s Facebook account for “For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for 2 years.” according to his Tweet.
This certainly will not be the end of the story. Investigations on both sides of the pond have begun. There’s no doubt that the deeper the digging will be the uglier the picture will get.
Streaming gadgets geek. Interested in every little thing there is to know about bypassing regional restrictions. An avid believer in the right to protect online privacy. Charles has also reviewed plenty of VPN service providers and knows how to separate the good apples from the bad ones.