Update: Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has broken his silence on the Cambridge Analytica controversy.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. “I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”
Zuckerberg proceeded to provide a timeline of events (which you can read below), before laying out three ways Facebook plans to “prevent bad actors from accessing people’s information” moving forward.
The company will first “investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information” prior to its 2014 policy change that limited the amount of data apps could access. Developers of apps with suspicious activity will then be subjected to an audit. Failure to agree to said audit will result in a ban from the platform. If a developer agrees to the audit and Facebook finds it “misused personally identifiable information,” they, too, will be banned and everyone affected will be alerted.
Secondly, Facebook is cutting back on the amount of data developers can access. Upon logging into an app, developers will now only gain access to your name, profile picture, and email address. Your data will also no longer be accessible to developers if you haven’t used an app in 3 months.
Lastly, a privacy tool will be displayed on top of everyone’s News Feeds beginning next month, allowing you to “revoke those apps’ permissions to your data.” Zuckerberg notes this tool already exists within Facebook’s privacy settings, but the new placement will ensure “everyone sees it.”
“I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform,” wrote Zuckerberg. “I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.”
Original story follows:
Over the weekend, The New York Times and The Guardian each published stories exposing the exploitation of data from over 50 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, a political analytics firm that worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Facebook has since come under fire from politicians, lawmakers, and users alike, as all parties demand answers to how the company managed to mishandle the personal data of millions of its users. To better understand the impact of these reports, IGN has compiled a brief rundown of the events that led to the exposure and an overview of what’s happened since.
On March 16, a day before the Times and The Guardian articles were published, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL Group, from its platform. The suspension came after the company learned of reports that Cambridge Analytica was in possession of user data that was believed to have been destroyed.
Facebook says the data was legally obtained by Aleksander Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, through a personality prediction app called “thisisyourdigitallife,” which used Facebook Login, the service that allows you to create accounts for third-party apps using your Facebook credentials. The app was downloaded roughly 270,000 times, giving Kogan access to certain data from each user, as well as the data of their Facebook friends “who had their privacy settings set to allow it,” even if those friends had never used the app themselves.
The legality of Kogan’s data collecting came into question in 2015 when he forwarded the information to Cambridge Analytica and one other outside party, Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc. Facebook says this distribution of data was a violation of its platform policy. The company subsequently removed the app and “demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed.” According to the company, all parties obeyed and certified the data had been destroyed.
However, according to both the Times and The Guardian, that wasn’t the case. Instead, Cambridge Analytica held onto the data and used it “to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box” during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Since the reports were published, Facebook has been under fire for its failure to protect its users’ data. According to USA Today, the company is now being probed by the Federal Trade Commission “over potential misuse of the personal information” of the 50 million affected users. Facebook’s stock also dropped nearly 7% on Monday, marking its biggest percentage drop in four years, according to CNN. It fell an additional 3% today, decreasing the company’s value by nearly $50 billion USD.
Naturally, the site’s users are also looking for answers, wondering if their personal data is secure. Facebook made sure to note this controversy didn’t involve a data breach; “everyone involved gave their consent,” according to the company.
Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, “pending a full, independent investigation” into a separate, yet related, matter: Nix was caught by the U.K.’s Channel 4 News discussing potential bribery and entrapment with an undercover reporter.
Stay tuned to IGN for the latest on this controversy and how it may impact Facebook moving forward.
Jordan Sirani is a freelance writer for IGN.