Facebook knows a lot about you. I downloaded all the data that the social media site has on me and it knows everything – who my family is, what music, books, movies and clothing I like, every digital friend I have had and all their contact details, what events I have been to, what advertisements I have interacted with, what applications I have used, even who I have poked.
Anyone on Facebook would be naïve to think the company doesn’t have this information – what would Facebook even be without everyone’s personal data? But the backlash from recent allegations over how a third party used millions of Facebook user’s data means long-unanswered questions of how this data is collected, stored, used and accessed have resurfaced.
Cambridge Analytica investigation exposes risks to Facebook data
In a nutshell, a transatlantic, joint-media investigation has revealed that a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Alexanadr Kogan, developed a research app that collected information on Facebook users that had chosen to download his app, which had been developed for psychologists to use.
About 270,000 people downloaded the app, giving consent for Kogan to access information about them, as well as information about their friends with open privacy settings. This information, according to Facebook, was collected legally and legitimately.
However, Kogan is alleged to have passed this information to other companies, including one named Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based company that provides services to political campaigns, governments and militaries. Facebook learnt the information had been passed on way back in 2015 and secured declarations from all involved, including whistleblower Christopher Wylie, that all the data and information had been destroyed.
Three years on, the investigation alleged that this data – reportedly of up to 50 million Facebook users mainly in the US – had not been destroyed.
With Cambridge Analytica having worked on elections in Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic, India, Argentina and, most notably, Donald Trump’s US election campaign, the revelations have opened up serious concerns about how Facebook handles its data, and the role that it could have played in any political propaganda, how secure data is and how transparent Facebook has been with its users.
Both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook have denied any wrongdoing.