Facebook & Cambridge Analytica – What Happened?

How the data was “leaked” to C.A…

The first thing we need to understand is that Facebook wasn’t “hacked” and the data wasn’t “leaked” for all intended purposes.  To understand what happened, we have to look into the different tools that Facebook has created to make our lives easier.

One of the tools is the “Facebook Login” tool – the most popular tool within the FB Family.

FB Login lets people simply log in to a website or app using their Facebook account instead of creating new credentials. People use it because it’s easy… When people use Facebook Login, though, they grant the app’s developer a range of information from their Facebook profile — things like their name, location, email or friends list.. Recode.net

In 2015, however, Facebook allowed developers to collect information on the friend network. Meaning that a developer could collect information on the user and their friends. This feature from 2015 is what caused the leak.

The Leak

Users tend to take quizzes on Facebook. “Take this quiz to see what cartoon character you are.” or “Take this quiz to see what kind of fruit you’d be.” etc. You’ve seen them on Facebook before. Well, in 2015, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan created a quiz called “Your Digital Life”

The Cambridge researcher – Dr Aleksandr Kogan – originally developed a personality quiz called This Is Your Digital Life. About 270,000 users’ data was collected, but the app also collected public data from their Facebook friends. Express.co.uk

This quiz collected a LOT of information that we – as users – gave them access to.

Cambridge Analytica’s Involvement

Everything was fine, until the data was shared with Cambridge Analytica. This violated Facebook’s Terms and Conditions. According to a whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, the data was sold to Cambridge Analaytica.

Mr Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica – which has no connection with Cambridge University – which then used it to psychologically profile people. BBC.com

Dr. Kogan claims that he’s being used as an escape goat by Cambridge Analytica and claims that the data set has been exaggerated by Cambridge Analytica.

In other words, C.A. took innocent information and turned into a political weapon that gave them access to psychological profiles of people who had a Facebook account.

What Facebook is doing about it

Facebook has tighten up its developer tool kits. And they also suspended two additional data analytics companies. CubeYou and AggregateIQ.

Facebook confirmed Sunday that it had suspended CubeYou, a California firm, which is accused of harvesting user data under false pretenses. That followed the Friday suspension of AggregateIQ, a Canadian firm that is allegedly tied to Cambridge Analytica. Fortune.com

Additionally, Facebook is going to send out an alert on the news feed for every user that was affected by this breach.

All 2.2 billion Facebook users will receive a notice titled “Protecting Your Information” with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. If they want, they can shut off apps individually or turn off third-party access to their apps completely. Washingtonpost.com

Facebook is going to require Verified Identities for future political ads.

On Friday, just days before its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is expected to testify before Congress, Facebook said it had started forcing people who want to buy political or “issue” ads to reveal their identities and verify where they are. NYTimes.com

What others are doing about it

Facebook is under the microscope across the world. The main question is whether Facebook mishandled users’ data.

Facebook has built its highly profitable social network off its users, selling advertisements based on their ages, interests and other details. But the scrutiny over the company’s vast trove of personal data — following a report that a political consulting firm had improperly obtained information of 50 million users — is taking direct aim at that lucrative formula. NYTimes.com

Senator John Kennedy has a few opinions of his own – the problems that Facebook is having may be too big for Facebook to fix by itself.

“My biggest worry with all this is that the privacy issue and what I call the propagandist issue are both too big for Facebook to fix, and that’s the frightening part,” Senator John Kennedy said on CBS’s Face the Nation. CNBC.com

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden issued a warning to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg – either Facebook shapes up, or they get broken up.

“There are going to be people who are going to say Facebook  ought to be broken up. There have been a number of proposals and ideas for doing it and I think unless [Zuckerberg] finds a way to honor the promise he made several years ago, he’s gonna have a law on his hands.” Techcrunch.com

What users can do about it

Facebook has brought people together. The “login” button has saved us from having to remember different passwords and usernames across platforms. The news-feed has given our friends and family access to our day to day goings of our life.

As a private investigator, I can tell you that investigative agencies use Facebook to monitor and track individuals across the web, so we have to be careful of what we post, when we post it, and where we post it. And always assume that your data does not belong to you.

When a platform is free to use – you become the product. Your personality, likes, dislikes, and friendships become data that can be purchased and manipulated. But if there is information and data that you want to keep private, follow this guides:

Here are 11 easy ways you can control what information is visible on Facebook. Bt.com

It’s impossible to protect your ALL your privacy on Facebook – or any other social network. Just like a loyalty card at a supermarket.

As long as you’re using the site, you’re waiving your rights to any privacy, just like with a loyalty card at a supermarket. Instead of thinking about protecting my privacy, I like to think in terms of putting my account into “privacy autopilot.” What Facebook privacy settings can be enabled to lock down your account so that the only things immediately linked with your name have been directly approved by you?  Below are 4 Steps for Facebook privacy: Intechnic.com

Ruben Roel

Ruben Roel is executive manage of PI Feed and founder of Investigator Marketing, a PI marketing agency in Dallas, TX. In his spare time, he's also a writer, video producer, student pilot, and eSports aficionado.