Facebook has admitted that data on most of its two-billion users could have been accessed improperly. This comes after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a British data analytics company worked with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to retain private data from a staggering 50-million Facebook users. The scandal caused a huge dip in Facebook share price and spawned numerous lawsuits.
In a step to secure users personal information, Facebook said they removed a feature which allows users to enter a phone number or email address to find others. This feature was being used maliciously to gather public profile information. Given the scale and sophistication of the activity noted on Facebook, the social media giant believes that many, if not most, of its users could have had their profiles scraped in this way.
The feature will now be disabled, following the scraping and improper sharing of the data gathered by research firm Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, said the social media giant did not have a broad enough view of what its responsibility was, and acknowledges that this was a “huge mistake”.
Approximately 270 000 people downloaded and participated in a personality quiz and shared information about themselves, as well as their friends, with a researcher who then passed this information along to Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica said that it licensed data on only 30-million people, countering Facebook’s claim that an overall total of 87-million users were reached during the scraping process.
Following today’s announcement by Facebook, we feel it’s important to clarify what data we licensed.https://t.co/sqBEiJWhH7
— Cambridge Analytica (@CamAnalytica) April 4, 2018
The reproach firm also tweeted that it had immediately deleted the raw data from their file server, and has begun the process of searching for and removing any derivatives from its system.
From 9 April onwards, Facebook will inform individual users as to whether their specific profiles were used during the data scraping and quiz processes with a notice at the top of their feeds.
Zuckerberg stated that although Facebook will not track down every single bad use of its users’ data, it will be putting measures in place to protect users going forward.